What a Waste

If you own or rent a home, you pay every month for the utilities: gas, water, trash, cable or satellite, electricity, etc. These regular expenses are a necessity and – baring an exceptionally cold winter or hot summer, normal monthly costs are a small but necessary part of overall living expenses.

Like most people, I tend to take utilities for granted – you pay your monthly bill, flip a switch, the light comes on. Turn a knob, the oven heats up. Pick up the phone, you get a dial tone. (Unless you’re under 30 and you don’t have a clue what a land line or a dial tone is, in which case, never mind.)

My point is you expect a “utility” provider to be overwhelmingly reliable and on those rare occasions when something doesn’t work (power outage, low water pressure, a tree limb across a phone line – that sort of thing), you want them to be easy to work with and to quickly remedy the problem.

When was the last time you heard somebody complain about Southern California Edison, for example? For the most part, you don’t. CV Water District? Nope. Charter Cable? Okay, now here’s a company that pretty much illustrates perfectly the difference between being a reliable and customer-focused utility/service provider and, well, one that isn’t.

But this isn’t about cable TV. My growing frustration is with our local trash, er, excuse me … “waste” collection, er … “management” company. I won’t mention the company by name, but its initials are “A” and “W” and used to be “BFI.” As customers of this company, unfortunately, we’re “SOL.” But I digress.

Our household refuse, yard clippings and recyclables (it all just used to be generic “trash” in the pre-PC days) are supposed to be picked up once a week. At least that’s what we pay for. Inevitably, however, one of our three different colored hoppers, or bins, or whatever they call the massive, wheeled containers that we drag out to the street – is left behind by its respective collection truck.

That’s because we live on a private drive with several other homes on it. So our three humongous cans have to go out on the street with everyone else’s monster cans. All of us combined used to be able to fit as many “traditional”  trashcans as we needed in a rather small area near our collective mailboxes. Of course, that was also when trash truck drivers would get out of their cabs and actually empty the cans by hand. Ah, the good old days.

Now one smoke belching, oil leaking, diesel drinking truck comes for the brown cans. Another comes for the black cans. And a third comes for the blue cans. Sounds environmentally responsible and efficient, doesn’t it? Not hardly. My neighbors’ and my cans now take up 20 or 30 linear feet of street. No matter how hard I try to arrange all of the cans to leave plenty of room so that the ginormous mechanical arm can pick them up, inevitably one or more of the drivers knocks over a container or places it back on the street directly in front of another container that has yet to be emptied. So guess what? The full one’s left unemptied by the next driver because – well, heaven forbid he should get out of his cozy cab to move a container that his own conscientious colleague left in the way.

Of course, I’ve called repeatedly to let the oh-so-nice customer service reps know that this is an ongoing problem and am always promised that a driver will be out the next day to pick up our missed cans. I’ll just say that  what customer service promises and what the drivers actually do are usually polar opposites on the professional spectrum.

It makes me want to “forget” to pay their bill some month and see what happens. But something tells me the company’s accounts receivable personnel will do their job a lot more reliably than the drivers.

Ya think?

I’ll see you ‘round town.

© 2011 WordChaser, Inc.
Jim Chase is an award-
winning advertising copywriter and native of Southern California. Readers are invited to “friend” his My Thoughts Exactly page on Facebook.
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