Our Philippines Electric Bill – No Indictments Here!
Today is the day we will receive our electric bill and, being in and of a retired status, I will usually set my calendar by it. Our electric meter will not only be read today, but we will also receive the bill, whether we are home or not. Although we don’t have a mailbox (nor do most people here), our bill will find its way into our hands by the end of the day, we can surely count on it. I’m not quite sure how this works in other areas of the Philippines, but here in Calbayog City, Samar, the entire collection department will come to my house today to read the meter, calculate the bill, print the bill, personally deliver it to the homeowner (or by proxy of some sort…like a relative or neighbor), and accept payment on the spot (if you should so chose). Much like a parking meter reader in the U.S. who delivers total on the spot service (minus collecting the fine – in most cases), you will know the day of the reading how much your previous months service will cost you…and by the way, you can pay it NOW. (Since the original writing of this article, and while I’ve seen the reader collect moneies previously, I’ve been informed by my family that payment on-the-spot is no longer an option. I will verify this and correct this post for the record.)
Actually this collections department consists of only one person and ohhhh how so efficient they are! (I wish the same could be said for the reliability of the actual delivery of electricity). This is like billing efficiency to the n’th degree. No fuss with the costly printing of bills or the management of a giant billing department. No reliability on a postal delivery service to deliver the bill and the postage involved. Just a simple reading and delivery of the printed bill from a hand-held device that produces a cash register like receipt on the spot. It also eliminates any potential customer excuse (abuse) of not receiving their bill in the mail, which we all know would be like an impossible indictment on the mail service, so why bother?
The prompt delivery of the bill and a standard 7 day billing period means another trip to town is in order for us. For SAMELCO, it means another timely collection. Now, we have never been late paying our bill but the truth be told, there will be no hesitation to disconnect your service upon non-payment of your bill when the allotted billing period elapses. I’m sure a disconnection and re-connection only equates to more income for the coop, and with some of the highest electricity costs in all of Asia, it makes one wonder where all the money goes.
It also leads me to wonder how a company can be so efficient in collections and be so out to lunch with the delivery of their actual service. Samar Electric Cooperative, or aptly named SAMELCO, is not much different from many other electricity service providers in the Philippines in the sense that cost overruns, problems with electricity procurement or generation of power along with infrastructure and delivery problems ultimately relates
to problems for consumers and businesses. That is an entirely different topic of discussion and how it relates to business investments and daily life in the Philippines but, for the average consumer, power interruptions and brown outs are a fact of everyday life. Everybody just seems to deal with it in the same manner they deal with the sunrise and sunset. I feel that if more people would complain more loudly about the poor service they receive, something would inevitably get done to correct the problems. But it is not in the spirit of the common Filipino to complain…about anything. It’s more like a nonchalant sigh of “oh well” and for many customers, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. I mean without washing machines, air conditioners, and water heaters to operate, it just doesn’t seem to be a real priority. And without air conditioning or an electric fan to cool you off, it all amounts to a good excuse to head to the beach. As far as the completion of any unsung karaoke goes, that will almost be as reliable as the electric billing itself.