People Aint Playing When It Comes To Paying

Last month I made an electronic payment to my gas company for about $55.  Apparently there was a glitch and that payment did not go through.  I’ve been a loyal customer since 2002 and always pay my bills on time, so not receiving $55 from me is probably no big deal.  Right?

Wrong?

I got a notice today covered in red ink telling me that I’d better pay the outstanding balance within one week or I can kiss my gas service good bye!

I called the gas company and they immediately put a note on my account, waived the late fee and told me that they had problems this month receiving checks from bills paid directly from banks (which I must say, makes me a little nervous). I then contacted my bank and formally requested that they stop payment on the first check and issue a new one.

I’m sure that it’ll all be worked out, but I feel the need to bring this up because I’ve NEVER over the past 22 years of paying bills EVER had a discontinued service order issued after only one late payment.  And this is the gas company.  The company that provides my heat. Usually utilities that provide heat are a little lenient this time of year.  It’s getting cold here in Maryland.  Clearly these guys aren’t pissing around.

A friend of mine used to repo cars for a living.  She said that she was always shocked that people wouldn’t call the banks which held their car loans when times got tough.  Instead they would ignore notice after notice until their car was literally towed away from the front of their home.  She said that a simple phone call and a small payment was usually all it took to keep the relationship going with a creditor until you were back on your feet.

As the economy continues to take a downward turn, there’s a good chance you may come up short one month. I don’t know about you, but I have great credit and that didn’t seem to matter to my gas company.  Clearly we’re in unfamiliar territory as the economy continues to teeter on the edge. To keep your own personal footing, keep the following in mind:

  1. Make arrangements to pay what you can afford and keep your creditors in the loop if you find yourself short on cash.
  2. Don’t assume that because you owe a utility company and it’s getting cold out, that they won’t shut off your service.
  3. Realize that you may not get as many overdue notices as you have in the past so don’t assume that you have months to pay off bills by waiting to pay them late.
  4. Really think through your holiday expenditures this year so as not to begin 2009 in the hole.  This is definitely the holiday to cut back on your gift list and simplify what you spend.
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