Thursday, September 13, 2012

You can too fight City Hall

For years, friends, even my friendly plumber, shook their heads and said, "You never win with the water department." Well, I'm here to tell a different story. My water bill is always high, but this month it was double what my neighbor's was--and his lot is a tad bigger than mine. I called the plumber, and he came out, put a pressure gauge on the system, checking the house, garage apartment, and watering system. No leaks. I called the water department and suggested they check the meter and change it out just to be sure. They checked--and no surprise, it was working just fine. I got a form letter from the water department informing me all was well.
Meantime I had contacted a reporter at the newspaper who does a column titled "The Watchdog," investigating consumer advocacy problems. Pretty soon I got a call from the nicest, most helpful woman at the water department--no, I"m not going to give her name because I don't want her inundated with calls. She explained that they would change the meter just to be sure and said that my water bill is erratic. If someone uses about the same amount for months and then has a sudden increase, the problem is clear. Mine is high some months, low a few--though it has never gone as low as one neighbor, even in mid-winter. She has arranged for an expert to do a "water audit" next week. I did explain I knew one high bill was due to a commode that had taken on a life of its own before I discovered it and had it fixed.
The next day another woman called to tell me that I was getting a "leak adjustment"--nice enough that it would pay the water bill some months. Next time you have a leak repaired, contact the water department and send them a copy of the plumber's work order. Magic!
How to make your way through bureaucracy and find these helpful people is all explained in the book, Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong, by Dave Lieber. It has a chapter titled "Your Meter is Accurate: Sure, Right." I'm rushing out to buy a copy, with a deep thanks to Mr. Lieber for steering me in the right direction. Find his book on Amazon at
The woman I first talked to said most sincerely, "We really do want to help." I believe her. What a nice surprise this has all been. And it was all done without anger and antagonism. Love it! The water department may be my new best friend--or maybe Dave Lieber is!

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