Problem Solver: Social media bring Peoples customer tweet relief

Heat back on after chilling saga

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The tweet that got Peoples Gas' attention was short and sweet.

Turn my heat back on, Claire Savage said, or the bunny gets it — sick, that is.

So began one of the Problem Solver's most bizarre fixes, one that also provides insight into the growing power consumers wield when using social media.

Savage's saga began when she and two roommates moved into their new Lakeview apartment Sept. 3.

Although their new landlord gave them a checklist of utilities to set up, including gas service, none of the three called Peoples Gas.

"We just kind of forgot and assumed a bill would arrive and that's how we'd establish service," Savage said.

But no bill arrived, and as the days went by, the thought of calling the gas company faded.

On Oct. 16, the roommates noticed the apartment was feeling a bit drafty. Upon closer inspection, they realized the gas had been turned off, depriving them of heat and hot water.

Two days later, Savage said, she called the gas company and asked to have the service turned back on. She was instructed to fax two forms of identification and a copy of her lease.

Savage said she faxed the documents Oct. 21 and was told someone would call her back within 48 hours.

No one did. When she called Peoples, she was repeatedly told it could not schedule a date to restore service because the system had not been updated with her information.

The thermostat read 56 degrees Thursday when Savage began feeling desperate. By then, the heat had been off for eight days, long enough that her pet rabbit, Perry, was starting to feel the effects.

At night, Savage slept under four or five blankets. The 8-pound rabbit, which normally slept atop the bed, began sleeping under the covers as well.

Savage said she called Peoples five times a day, but still couldn't get the gas company to schedule a date to turn on her service.

Co-workers suggested she tweet to the Problem Solver about her experience. Savage, who has never used Twitter, established an account and sent two tweets Thursday afternoon to WYP_Tribune.

The first said, "Peoples Gas shut off with no notice 8 days ago, its 56, freezing and they STILL won't let me make an appt to get it back."

The second, minutes later, invoked Perry: "I'm afraid my bunny will get sick, I can't believe I created an account just to tweet about this!"

Later that afternoon, before the Problem Solver had even seen Savage's tweets, a Peoples Gas spokeswoman called the Problem Solver asking for assistance in getting in touch with Savage. The spokeswoman said that although the utility does not maintain a Twitter account, it does monitor social media mentions of Peoples Gas, and tries to respond when appropriate.

The Problem Solver reached out to Savage, who said she realizes she made a mistake by not calling to set up service in September when she moved in. Still, she felt Peoples' response has been slow and uncaring.

"I have tried everything, including calling 311, calling my landlord (and) real estate agent, and nobody has been able to help me get in contact with anyone who will allow me to schedule me an appointment," she said. "We are three young professionals, and it is getting hard not to be able to cook or have hot showers or heat at home. Also, my pet rabbit's ears are freezing. … I am going to have to send him to a boarding facility if this continues."

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