3 days ago, on 18th February at 6 pm, I got a text message from Origin Energy our electricity provider/retailer notifying me that our meter would be read two days either side of 20th February. Simple mathematics shows that this message was at least 12 hours late, to begin with…
Anyway, the reason energy companies notify their customers that their meters are going to be read is primarily for the safety of their own employees. The notification system is designed to ensure the customer restrains any dogs on their property so that the meter reader can gain access safely without the chance of getting bitten.
Sounds good in theory but in practice, this current notification system is pathetically inadequate and the epitome of why Australians hate electricity providers so much that they're now on even par with banks. And this hatred is starting to be projected onto the frontline workers like meter readers.
The main frustration regarding meter reading is not that we have to secure our dog temporarily, it's the fact that we're given a FIVE DAY WINDOW for this reading when potentially our dog has to be secured and as most people would know to chain your dog up for 5 days is not ideal.
How is it, at a time when we're able to face-call people from one side of the world to another, that we can't get an SMS telling us the DAY when our meter is being read?!
I often try and combat this "unknown" by keeping a keen eye out for the Energex ute in our neighbourhood and if I see his vehicle (when I'm dropping the kids at school, for example) I know he's in the area and likely stopping in that day so I'll chain our dog up or bring him inside.
BTW, we have had occasions when our dog was on a lead upstairs but our meter still wasn't read because the reader wasn't completely sure the dog was indeed secured. This was an actual excuse I got when I called up my provider to complain about my meter not being read – I kid you not.
So on day 3 (out of 5) the meter reader came and guess what… I had forgotten to secure our dog but I was home and naturally heard Scooter barking so I raced out the back and called him upstairs placing him inside our home. Then I took a peek out front to see the meter man backing his ute out of our driveway.
I quickly ran outside and yelled out "have you read the meter?!" He replied, "no, you'll have to secure your dog first." I said, angrily, "he's inside!" And as the meter man got out of his vehicle I slammed my front door in disgust. Then I thought to myself bugger it I'm going to give this guy a piece of my mind…
So I opened the door again and after he had read the meter I said, "what is wrong with you guys can't you give us a better warning when you'll be rocking up?" He said, "we do give a 5-day window." I said, "so what am I supposed to do lock my dog up for 5 days, can't you see how stupid that is." He said, "I can't do anything about it mate. And I said, "how about you tell your boss – that would be a good start!"
He then said, "I've been getting abused constantly over the past few months – I've had a gutful of this job – I'm close to throwing it in."
He then went on to explain how he often takes this common grievance by customers to his hierarchy but our complaints fall on deaf ears and nothing gets done.
It was at that point when I realised I was guilty of shooting the messenger and I had stepped over the line by being a tad aggressive so I did apologise and sympathised with the man and also stated I understood that it wasn't his fault rather it's the fault of the top brass in the company and the electricity industry as a whole.
Anyway, I waved him off and said thank you for explaining the situation to me. I have to say, this meter reader guy was professional and polite under the stress of another frustrated customer.
But it got me thinking, electricity meter readers will soon be as despised as parking meter readers and that's saying something!
In these times, many people are finding it extremely difficult to afford these exorbitant power costs and just the meter reader turning up is enough to cause anxiety of the bill shock to come. Add to that, the frustration of the customer required to give almost unlimited "safe access" to energy company workers then it's little wonder tempers are beginning to fray.
My pensioner mother rang me the other day and explained how guilty she felt because she had to put her air conditioner on during the recent heatwave conditions. Imagine a world where pensioners can't afford to run heaters or coolers… well don't fantasise too hard because we're living it now! Life is stressful as it is but now people have to deal with the added anxiety of keeping comfortable in their own homes during extreme weather conditions. Honestly, it seems unreal.
And on Sky News (just breaking tonight) BAEconomics Managing Director Dr Brian Fisher's modeling shows that Labor's 45% emissions target will cost the Australian economy $472 billion over the next decade and raise power prices a further 50% – wow! We're truly buggered… If the ALP wins the next election, which they probably will.
I wouldn't be surprised if work as an electricity meter reader soon becomes a toxic career choice and a job nobody wants to do (if it isn't already). I doubt that big energy companies and most politicians really understand how dire the situation is out in the general community regarding the problem of high energy prices.
Pretty soon the increasing cost of living pressure cooker is going to burst and I wouldn't like to be reading people's electricity meters when it does.
Help combat the rising cost of living and start developing your food garden now because not only does growing your own save money it's also healthy, chemical free, good exercise, and fun.