Corporate Greed By PG&E Killed My Friend’s Family And My Credit Score

PG&E San Bruno Gas Explosion

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), your San Bruno gas pipeline blast killed my friend’s wife of over 20 years and his daughter in 2010.  Thousands of people depend on you for energy to heat their homes and cook their food.  How can you let this negligence happen?  Is this a case of profits before safety?  What the hell.

We have been silently grieving for the past two years, and we were healing until I get a notification from my refinance bank that you guys screwed me on my credit score due to a $7 late payment from 2009 which was never sent to my correct address.

The $7 late payment, as later explained to me was due to a “landlord service continuation fee” where I take over all PG&E charges between the time my tenants vacate the property and when a new tenant arrives.  News to me guys.

PG&E TOO LAZY TO DO THE RIGHT THING

The penalty for my $7 late payment, popped up only in January of 2012 and crushed my credit score by 100 points according to one of the big three credit agencies.  Are you kidding me?  When I ask you what happened, you said that you sent notifications over mail and hired an internal collection agency to hunt me down.

Obviously, you guys are lazy as hell because the mailing address you sent returned your $7 invoice multiple times because I had moved offices.  Right there, that should be an indication that I am not there!

If you wanted to reach me, why don’t you just call my mobile phone #, which has been in your records for the past 10 years! How hard is it to call my number and ask for payment?

Finally, why don’t you just send the $7 bill to the very address that the power is supposedly being consumed? My new tenants would have simply let me know or forwarded me the bill within 30 days!

You didn’t bother to call because you didn’t want to spend your effort and resources to try and collect a $7 bill.  I know it costs you money to hire a collection agency.  Instead, you would rather take the easy route and just report my “delinquent bill” to the credit agency so that years down the road, I will call in and pay after my credit score gets smashed.

PG&E , PLEASE THINK ABOUT YOUR CUSTOMERS FIRST

Please stop taking the easy route for profits PG&E.  Think about your customers before your profits.  Maintain your pipelines and stop being delinquent to save some money.  $70 million in restitution for the eight people who died is not enough because there are thousands more people who are worried when the next explosion will occur.  Spend whatever you can to upgrade your damn pipelines and do your job!  Don’t try and pass off the upgrade costs to your customers as noted in a February, 2012 statement.

You guys are a shame.

Your former CEO in 2010, Peter Darbee made $7.34 million during the year of the blast.  Are you serious?  Your new CEO, Anthony Earley is expected to make a similar amount of money.  How about doing the right thing and paying your leaders nothing until all the pipelines are upgraded for the safety of your customers?  How about payiing your CEO’s a regular base salary and no bonus until and after you guys stop taking short cuts and hurting people’s credit scores, and finances ultimately?

When in doubt, just do the right thing!

LESSONS LEARNED WHEN DEALING WITH CORPORATE GREED

* Check your credit score annually to prevent surprises.  Utility companies and many more have no problem throwing you and your credit score under the bus without giving you a legitimate chance to respond.  I now have to jump through hoops to ensure that my refinance process does not get derailed.  I’m probably going to spend another 2 hours calling PG&E, faxing over documents, getting PG&E to remove this oversight, which they said they will and worry what the hell due to this issue.  A bad mark on your credit score stays for 7 long years if you do not get this fixed!  You can check your credit score for free nowadays.  I highly recommend it because of what corporates like PG&E can do to it!  Just make sure to cancel within 30 days if you don’t want the service afterward.  The offering above will provide credit monitoring to make sure nobody is messing with your credit.

* Make no mistake that money and more money drives action.  Corporations like PG&E and other publicly traded companies have shareholders to report to.  If they can cut corners to make more money, you better believe someone in that corporation is at least suggesting the proposal, even if lives and people’s finances are at stake.  CEO Darbee’s $7.34 million compensation in 2010 proves this.  For the online community, don’t be naive to think that Google isn’t under tremendous pressure to make more and more money with ist $210 billion market cap.  Due to the law of large numbers, it gets harder to grow.  They will do as many algorithm updates as possible so they can optimize their profits, unfortunately at the expense of the little guy blogger.

* The mortgage refinance process takes a brutally long time nowadays.  Before the financial crisis in 2008, it took maybe 35-45 days to refinance.  Now, it’s taking 90-100 days on average.  90 days is unheard of, especially since I already have my existing loan with my bank, which means they have all my information already.   They say they are backed up due to purchases, which is a good sign for the economy.  However, I don’t believe them.  They are just being inefficient.  I’ll write a whole new post on this subject.

* If you are a landlord, always call the utility company within 30 days after your tenants leave.  Do not assume that your tenants have paid their bill in full.  All unpaid bills by your tenants will be on your head and the utility companies have no problem screwing you as I’ve just written.

* Look out for yourself, because not many will.  If you work at PG&E, please do everything you can to put pressure on your leaders to do the right thing and upgrade your miles and miles of pipelines.  This post is not an indictment on the everyday people who work at PG&E.  This post is aimed strictly at the key decision makers who are making the big bucks.  People’s lives are at stake.  Furthermore, if you work in the credit collection agency, your rules are archaic.  Try harder to reach people who owe you money and stop taking short cuts!  Do you really think people would sacrifice a 100 credit score hit for an $7 bill?  Please try harder.

Regards,

Sam

Note: The PG&E explosion occurred on Sept. 9, 2010, when a natural gas pipeline constructed in 1956 ruptured, sending a plume of fire into the neighborhood for almost 95 minutes before the gas was shut off. Eight people died, dozens were hurt and 38 homes were destroyed.

The disaster also raised fears nationally about the safety of 150,000 miles of natural gas pipelines that were built before 1970 and exempted from pressure testing, which made it difficult to assess their integrity.

Update: If you have a story about a corporation who you feel has wronged you, please shoot me an e-mail.  You are free to tell your story here as doing so does make a difference.  PG&E has contacted me to do everything in their situation to help.  If my own resolution doesn’t go through, I will contact them and get things squared away. 

Photo: PG&E San Bruno Gas Pipeline Explosion, 2010.  Wikipedia.

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. Janna says

    Sam, I am so very sorry for the loss of your friends. That is hard enough under any circumstances, but outrageous if caused by a company’s cutting corners on safely to make a larger profit.
    On a lighter note – you are starting to sound like me! :) I used to think the world was a place where, in general, companies tried to do the “right thing”. Maybe the fact that I was younger and naive was part of it, but I also believe the world has become a greedier place. What made this clear to me was a situation I have mentioned before about Chase Bank, when they tried to unilaterally change the terms of a balance transfer to half a million people, including me. (I have a low percentage “for the life of the loan”. They tried to tack on a $10 monthly charge on top of that – not a change in interest rate, they claimed – as well as raise the minimum payment.) In the end, I won, but Chase totally lost my respect, and I’m sure you will forever feel that way about PG&E.

    I hope you get your credit score fixed. I’m sorry that nothing can bring your friends back.

    • Financial Samurai says

      So many companies lose my respect the more I investigate everyday. Everything is so profit driven b/c of shareholders and competition. What’s worse, PG&E i a monopoly.

      I will fight for my credit score and fix it til the very end. PG&E reached out to me after this post was published, and I will take them up on their offer if I lose my own war with someone else there.

  2. WorkSaveLive says

    That’s really sad, Sam. I hope that time will ease the pain.

    We’ve had some good exchanges via email but unfortunately this type of greed is what’s wrong with capitalism. If only there were a perfect solution…

  3. Untemplater says

    Sorry for your loss Sam. I remember that explosion clearly and was in total shock that they could let something like that happen. There are plenty of other scary PGE stories in SF. Several of those underground areas covered by pge grates have had explosions with huge flames blasting up and out of them. Hence I never walk on top of them bc you just never know!!!

    And man sorry to hear about that awful billing mixup you have to deal with. I had to fight ATT a few years back and a credit agency too who totally f’d things up when I changed service providers. Hope you get it sorted out soon. Hang in there!

    • Financial Samurai says

      Yep, one never knows. I remember two manhole cover explosions too. It’s like we got ticking time bombs in our area.

      I just can’t believe the CEO got $7.3 million that year as well. Ridiculous!

  4. Dollar Disciple says

    Wow, I’m really sorry for your loss. There’s definitely a lack of accountability until something horrible happens.

    Why is any pipeline “exempt from pressure testing” at all? If it’s because they are so old, then they should be replaced before more people get hurt!

  5. retirebyforty says

    Sorry to hear about your friend. That’s why I dislike corporations more and more. Everything is profit driven. You 100 point loss due to $7 is crazy. I need to check my credit and make sure I don’t have anything like that on my record. My refi went through pretty quickly in less than 30 days. I went with Quicken Loans, but wasn’t able to get the best rate due to my LTV.

  6. This Aggie Saves says

    I’m sorry for your loss.

    It really is important to keep track of your credit score… I started checking mine in 2007, found some inaccuracies and now have a score 100 points higher.

  7. Aloysa says

    What a horrible story! I was in the bad mood to start with, now I am feeling not just awful but disgusted. I am SO sorry to hear about your friend. No words can heal, only time (I hope.)
    $7 and 100 points loss?! WTF?!

    • Financial Samurai says

      And for 7 years on your record if you don’t rectify the situation, which is what I’m doing. Trust me, I am raising hell, and everybody from PG&E is contacting me now to fix.

      I hope they can just keep e-mails and records on file and send out warnings this way. This is 2012 PG&E! Hello!

  8. krantcents says

    When I saw that fire on the news, it smelled of negligence. They should be checking their pipeline routinely. a personal connection just makes it worse. It must be a nightmare for your friend.

    Deadbeat by default is the worst kind of issue. 25+ years ago, a department store made a mistake and charged off a bill on me and it took 8 months to fix. The worst part is they never took responsibility for the mistake. There is no way, I did not pay my bills so I know the charge off was a mistake.

  9. Taline says

    Hey Sam,

    I’m very sorry to hear about how your friend lost his wife and daughter :( It is difficult enough to lose a loved one from natural circumstances, but negligence is an entire different animal.

    I cannot imagine what your friend is still going through today. I bet he has never been the same since that day. I’ve said it time and time again. There needs to be strong consequences to peoples actions. Only then will they do the right thing. Not necessarily because they want to, but because they have to in order to not face the terrible consequences. Throwing money and calling it a restitution is not enough.

    It is the same reason why some of the most terrible crimes are committed in America. I mean when we give people a roof over their head, food, ammenities, and we even pay for legal representation when they cannot afford it, well what else can we expect? We even allow them to obtain a freakin degree while incarcerated! In other countries (where the circumstances are often much worse than the crime itself), people think twice before commiting the crime. Not because people there are any different. People are the same in all parts of the world. Consequences to their actions is the game changer!

    We need to hold companies to higher punishment than simply making them pay some $$$. Maybe the CEO and all other upper management involved in the decision making need to serve some serious time. Like life without the possibility or parole. Their lack of action was a direct cause of 8 people no longer being with us today. Not to mention the family members left forever scarred!

    I realize this may sound a bit drastic. But sometimes that’s a necessary evil for positive change.

    • Financial Samurai says

      The CEO getting paid $7 million + that year is a HUGE slap in the face of all of us here in the Bay Area. It shows no sense of empathy or connection with the people who were affected. The entire city of San Bruno was walking on egg shells for the entire year.

      As a monopoly, they need to go above and beyond to protect their customers, not below and near.

  10. Shilpan says

    Sam, this reminds me about Union Carbide disaster that happened in India while I was in college. It killed thousands of people, and UC still hasn’t taken care of so many poor families, especially those young kids who lost their parents. Corporate responsibility ought to be first towards safety and well-being of very people they serve.

  11. Paul Parmley says

    Hi Sam – this is Paul Parmley from PG&E. I reached out to you yesterday via Twitter in the hopes of resolving this issue for you. Could you please send your account/contact info to pfp3@pge.com? I have a colleague ready to give you a call to figure this out. Many thanks.

    • Financial Samurai says

      Hi Paul, thanks for reaching out. I will contact the e-mail address if my resolution does not go through this week. You gives have said you would send a zero invoice and a “clear letter credit” in the mail, removing this blight on my credit. I’m just waiting to get the forms so I can send to my bank to get the refinance moving again.

  12. Financial Samurai says

    Thanks everyone for the well wishes so far. It’s really needed for my friend who lost his family. I cannot imagine and every time I see him on the tennis court I think about this tragedy.

    I hope PG&E can just show they are doing everything they can to safeguard the pipelines to prevent such a disaster from happening again, and stop being so reckless with people’s financial lives.

    Take down everyone’s mobile number and e-mail and try at least 3 times and leave 3 messages before over a several month period before slaughtering your client’s credit scores.

  13. Matt @ Dividend Monk says

    Sorry to hear about all that; especially the deaths. Blogs can be an excellent medium for spreading this sort of thing and holding businesses accountable.

    I too once had an issue with my credit score and a tiny bill. Fortunately the collecting agency got in touch with me before it damaged the credit, but otherwise it would have. That was years ago, and I began taking more notice of my credit score after that.

  14. Geoff says

    Sam, I completely understand your frustrations. I had an 800+ score until someone stole my identity a few years ago. A couple fraudulent charges and it dropped significantly. I’ve been filling police reports and faxing documents all over the place for the past 3 years. As of today, I’m told the last remaining hold-out finally removed the charge-off from their books…..only 3 or 4 more months before the credit bureaus reflect it. How ridiculous is that? I’ve frozen everything now so it helps a bit, but makes it pain to use my credit for anything. Anyway, I feel your pain.

  15. raquel c says

    I have a few questions pg&e is trying to hold me responsible for a bill that wasn’t under my name I was simply a room mate in the household bill never got paid & eventually shut off so now that I’ve moved out I can’t start pg&e in my name until the bill at the previous address is paid. Please help??!?

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