Letter: BG&E values PR more than customer service

Our power was restored late Monday afternoon — about 65 hours after the storm. However, during the outage more than a dozen attempts to get information from Baltimore Gross and Eccentric about their priorities and a schedule for restoring power were all unsuccessful.

BG&E policy seems to emphasize public relations over providing customers with solid information that might help them cope. This bias is evident on the outage web site, in their automated reporting system, and, most glaringly, by their employee's inability or reluctance to offer any details about priorities and a tentative schedule for restoration in a given neighborhood.

The web site map shows only one point in time, with no graphic clues comparing past or projected status. The accompanying table compares outage reports to total customers restored, by county. But, not everyone reports an outage, and not all the customers counted as "restored" have lost power. So the table can show two or three times as many restorations as outages. The comparison is meaningless as a measure of restoration progress, but still excellent PR.

Intended only to route help where it's needed, the outage reporting system makes it hard for a customer to offer any details except his address. One cannot choose "speak with a BG&E employee," and the system failed under peak call volumes.

Until Sunday morning, all my attempts to speak to someone resulted in a busy signal or an automated "no reps available" message. This biases reporting and also frustrates the hell out of a powerless customer trying to help.

The most egregious example of employee non-response involved a company boom truck operator, idling at the corner within yards of our house just before sundown on Sunday. After showing him the open fuse on the pole near our driveway, I asked when it might be replaced. He consulted his computer, drove off, returned later, walked around across the street with his flashlight, and then drove away for the night without a word.

Steve Singer


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