No, that's not a typo. Just to make sure you read it the first time, I'll repeat it here.

Fuck Silicon Valley Power and Santa Clara Municipal Utilities

Yes, fuck them. Hard. No lubricant.

(Can you tell? I'm a little pissed right now.)

I came home tonight to find that my power was off and my UPSes were beeping at me. Puzzled, I checked my neighbors. They all had power. So I figured my breakers had tripped for some reason. I grabbed a flashlight and went to investigate. They were fine.

I sat down and ate my dinner (Chinese to go) by candle light. Of course, I had to find the candles first. Then I grabbed the phone book to call my local power monopoly. I explained the problem and the conversation went something like this.

Me: Hi. I just came home and found that my power is off.

Moron: Did you pay your bill?

Me: Yes, I'm pretty sure I did. But I can't tell you for sure. I use an on-line bill payment service and have for about a year and a half. And, well, my power is off--as you know. (I've since confirmed with BillPay that the payment went out as normal.)

Moron: What's your address.

(I tell him my address and he puts me on hold.)

Moron: Your service was turned off for non-payment.

Me: (Quite surprised.) What?! Well, can you turn it back on? I certainly have the money to pay whatever it is you think that I owe.

Moron: No, you'll need to take this up with billing in the morning.

Me: I called for emergency service and you're refusing to re-activate my power? Would you like to pay for the $100 of food that's going to spoil in my refrigerator?

Moron: Sir, you'll need to talk to billing at 8am tomorrow. (It was 7:30pm when I called.)

Me: Can you at least tell me when my power was shut off? I want to know if I should risk opening the refrigerator.

Moron: I have no idea.

Needless to say, I'm very pissed off. According to my records, they got their payment on-time. Did I get a threatening letter in the mail?


Did I get a threatening phone call?


Where do these assholes get off doing this?

I ended up driving up to Fry's to buy a 50 foot extension cord. I plugged it into the shared laundry room and used to power my refrigerator, one light, my DSL modem, and a laptop.



I'm really starting to wonder why I bother living here at all. I pay $1,400 a month (twice the monthly payments on my old house) and for what? To deal with really bad traffic, moronic utility companies, and countless other bullshit.

Oh, that's right. I came out here to work at a company that has since forgotten how to innovate and take risks. Yippie.

Maybe I should start looking for a job somewhere that I can actually afford to live. It's not like I get paid enough to make up for the fact that a house here would cost me at least $500,000. Not even close.

At least somewhere else I'd have some room and maybe more of a life outside of work.


Posted by jzawodn at September 24, 2002 09:31 PM

Reader Comments
# Chris Winters said:

Isn't there some sort of public utility commission that mandates they have to contact you n times (normally by phone) before doing something like this? I know in Pennsylvania (where we're writing/installing billing/CRM software for a gas utility in Pittsburgh) the steps to termination are well-defined. Hmmm... maybe this newfangled internet has something.

Ah: See and scroll down to 10010 and 10010.1. Bastards.

on September 25, 2002 04:00 AM
# kasia said:

This is why monopolies sucks :(

If they would lose customers to competition they sure as hell would make sure things like that won't happen.. In the meantime what happens to them? Nothing! You pay your bill and continue to use their product because you have no choice.

on September 25, 2002 05:06 AM
# Dan de Isaacs said:

We have municipal power. It's a co-op. Not bad. The office is in the same building as the police station. No matter how angry you are when you walk in, by the time you make it past all the guys with guns, you've cooled down considerbly.

I recall this as when I first moved down here, I was told by my Apt. manager that all the utilities had been aranged for me. Only one week after I moved here, I came home from work with no electricity, and no means to cook my TV dinner. It was a clerical error, and just like you, I never received any warning before it was shutoff. I was roughly as angry as you. Only I had to go there in person and settle it. So I had to miss a few hours of work (back when I cared about missing work).

I was mad. But what are you gonna do? Not use electricity?

on September 25, 2002 11:52 AM
# Dan Isaacs said:

Upon reflection, what concerns me most is that you did not have a 50' extension cord handy.

on September 25, 2002 12:05 PM
# Asa said:

Wow, Jeremy $14,000/month for your apartment... Perhaps you should move back to Findlay, and work for Marathon Oil again? *laughs* Maybe, there is hope for you, Josh returned to his lovely roots in Ohio.

on September 25, 2002 12:59 PM
# BDKR said:

Yeah brother, I feel your pain. I used to live in Santa Cruz before the cost of real estate almost doubled there, and it was still expensive! $725 a month for a two bedroom duplex. After a short and ugly period of time in Florida, I just made the hop down here to Margarita Island in the Caribean (part of Venezuela). Talk about cheap living!


on September 25, 2002 01:19 PM
# Todd Blanchard said:

I hear you man. I left a nice life in Denver CO to do some dot com that sounded real, then after I bust ass to build the impossible system to provide the killer service, they decide they'd be valued more highly as a software company than for the service they wanted to perform.

The bay area is a shit hole of self important hacks. I worked with better software engineers in Denver. It left me cold, unimpresssed, and the cost of living vs quality of life ratio is shit. Hell, San Francisco is the worlds largest urinal. Just inhale on a warm day and you'll see it.

I've left the bay area for a gig in Europe (Paris). Its cheaper to live in Paris. The quality of life is better. We don't work nearly has hard, make the same money, have lower expenses, and get 6 weeks of vacation a year.

So I'm with you, fuck the bay area. Its an expensive fantasy land with no payback and a clueless VC circle jerk atmosphere. If you're not already rich, you're screwed because you can't get rich there. Its all propaganda. A 2 bedroom closet in SF was $2200 per month when I was there last year.

Plus, CA is the worst run state I have ever seen. Its good to be gone.

on September 26, 2002 02:32 AM
# Mary Wehmeier said:


The California Public Utilities Commission is where you need to call and make your complaint first thing in the morning. You can file a complaint online at However I wouldn't waste my time, I'd call. According the the Utilities Commission, Issues concerning utilities' billing and service: Consumer Affairs Branch 505 Van Ness Ave.San Francisco, CA 94102-3298 Phone: 1-800-649-7570 or 1-415-703-1170 Fax: 1-415-703-1158.

What's happened to you isn't the first time I've heard of this happening to people. Several years ago it also happened to us, even though I'd sent the check in over three weeks before.

Also tomorrow when you call the utility company, I'd immediately ask for a supervisor. Explain calmly what happened and when they start the stonewalling process-- tell them you're contacting the PUC.

One other aside-- I'd check with your billpay service. If they are at fault, they will owe you all the money necessary to restart your service as well as an inconvience factor, and letters to all your creditors they screwed up. If they refuse call the California Attorney General's Office.

Good luck!
Mary Lu

on September 26, 2002 03:02 AM
# jan said:

Another Santa Cruzian here. Lived there while I was going to college and absolutely NO rent control in that place. $750/month for a closet in a rathole living with 5 other rats. Jesus christ! Then on top of that utilities (luckily we shared that bill) and the sketchiest, shadiest, most annoying landlord you can imagine. I agree with Tom Blanchard, the bay area and vicinity is great if you're rich, other than that, you're getting fucked from every angle.

on September 27, 2002 11:07 AM
# John Roukema said:

Mr. Zawodny,
I am the Assistant Director of Silicon Valley Power, the City of Santa Clara's municipal electric utility, responsible for Customer Service and Marketing. I am sorry for the inconvenience you had to go through. I have investigated the situation and have found that all notices and actions taken by Santa Clara were appropriate. In order to respect your privacy, I will be responding to you directly by email with the details of our investigation.
John Roukema

on September 27, 2002 05:02 PM
# joshw said:

*laughs* I guess that's the kind of service you get when your complaint lands in the first page of a Google search for "Silicon Valley Power". *grins*

on September 30, 2002 08:19 AM
# anonuser said:

this might be a very expensive area. i came from pennsylvania which is definitely not better. i at least have more of a shot to not live a welfare life than i do back home. yeah it sucks that things are so expensive here, but my salary is also higher than i would get elsewhere too. but, moreover, my lifestyle here is way better than i'd have anywhere else. i am not rich, but i have crazy cool friends here who aren't on welfare and don't spend all their life complaining about what they could have been. it's worth it.

as far as the power, at some point it would be cool if everyone in the bay area would deal with not having power for a while (we practically were at one point) and boycott the monopoly. the government cares more about the potential ware for iraq than whether or not your food in the fridge will spoil.

on November 18, 2002 12:58 PM
# brian lee said:

try living in san jose, or cupertino.
the rates are much higher and then your
stuck with PGE service, which would is worse.

on November 19, 2002 12:18 PM
# fga said:

ha ha

on November 19, 2002 12:19 PM
# fga said:

ha ha

on November 19, 2002 12:19 PM
# Jones Ari said:

Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognizes genius.

on September 30, 2004 07:19 PM
# Kiwi said:

WOW!!! Sorry to say this, but I'm glad I'm not the only one this happened to! I came home from the most miserable day at work yesterday, 4/6/05, to find my power was off. The only comforting thing in my house, besides my cats, was my mint chip ice cream. Yeah, sure...if I wanted to lick it off the sides of my inadequately sealed refrigerator. The conversation I had with them was just about word for word. You must have spoken to the same condescending bastard I did. Those people could give a shit less about anyone, even when they are the ones at fault. Why you might ask? Because we have no other utility company to do business with, and they know it, that's why!

Thanks for letting me vent!

on April 7, 2005 09:41 AM
# Beverly Bellows said:

I am a 69 year old woman who has been living in Santa Clara, California, without power for about five years. I had refused to pay the $10 penalty for paying my utility bill late (I am like the absent-minded professor when I am busy), because it seemed too high for a $25.00 utility bill (other utilities charge only a small percent of the amount owing). I tried to pay my bill less the $10 penalty and they sent my check back. After several times of going back and forth, they just kept the check, but did not cash it. When I didn't go running to them to pay the multiple late fees, they turned my water pressure down to a drip. At some point they took my recycling containers and stopped picking up my garbage. The Santa Clara Utilities still continued to charge me $10 each month and various other charges, so my total kept increasing, even though I had no electricity (they charge for access), no garbage collection, no recycling pick-up and inadequate water pressure. At some point, probably when $10 a month was a reasonable percent of the total amount the Utilities claim is owed, the Santa Clara Utilities changed the penalty to $10 or a percent of the amount owed, whichever is greater, so now the monthly late penalty is around $36-$40 a month for not receiving services.

I am so glad to see this blog, because you always think it only happens to you. I understand from someone who works at another city-owned utility that there is no PUC type organization that regulates city-owned utilities. If that is the case, we should contact our state representative. However, today I read on the CPUC web-site that the "PUC regulates privately owned electric, telecommunications, natural gas, water and transportation companies." Consumer complaints can be made Monday through Friday, 9 A.M. TO 3 P.M. at 1-800-649-7570. I am going to complain to the PUC and I am going to go solar, whether or not I get reimbursed by the Santa Clara Utilities for buying solar panels.


on October 18, 2006 05:12 PM
# jody said:

jeremy.. i shut off ,turn on electric for a utility here in the east.. what happened to you is very in my state,you 1st get your bill.2-you get a notice in the mail that you did not pay.3- you get 2 seperate phone calls,if we get an answering machine,that is one call. if you dont answer within 10 rings,that is 1 call(caller id keeps people from answering when we call if they owe us) 4- i go the house and leave a notice that you will be shut off in 72 hrs,not counting weekends,holidays,so it ends up being 6 days in all. 5- if you have not made your payment,i shut the service off. this hole the customer digs for themselves takes about 2 months in all...
then with the power off,the customer can call in and make a payment deal. a customer owes $1,000. we will tke a payment of say $50 a month if they are low income and fit the guidelines. if they make thier $50 monthly payment for a year,we forgive the the balance...
now .. what is it like to do a job like mine?? you need to have what we call allegator skin. people let dogs out on me,i have been threatened with violence, i have had my windshield broken, women crying,or screaming at me. a typical line is "i have little kids in here" . i think to myself "do they run on electricity?". people yell"HEY,DID YOU JUST SHUT OFF MY ELECTRICITY?" and i say," let me ask you a question first sir, did the person responsable for the bill,pay the bill?". they usually say yes, and i tell them to call the company right away then,because if there is a mistake,we will turn the electric back on as soon as payment is verified,24/7.
if someone in the house is ill,and we shut them off,all they have to do is have thier doctor call us,and by law,we must turn them back on asap. this is called a medical emergency. this could go on for years. this is how some customers owe us over $25,000.00 for a small 2 bedroom house... they play the system or they are really sick,or both...
it is usually the same people that i shut off for non pay..
a job like mine is very nerve racking. i am constantly ready to get jumped/yelled at,have a dog let out on me,get locked in a basement,ect... but i love it. i have only been on this job less than 3 years,and i have never ever had a boring day yet. not even one. sometimes it is funny in a nervous way. such as, i will approach a house with loud boom boom music blasting . i pull the meter and i hear someone yell"WHAT THE F--K" that's always fun... or shutting off a place like eat in park at lunch time. talk about panic, but when should i shut them off??? they may owe us $4,000. and have had mail,phone calls,posted notices hand delivered by me,and then i shut them off,busy or not... another one is a muffler shop with 8 lifts in the air with cars on all of them and people waiting for thier cars.. i shut them off and the cars are stuck in the air... i dont like shutting them off,but it is my job,and i buy stock in my company so they owe me the money too. my company is owed over 31 million dollars in deliquent payment. where would you draw the line?? i have to hit and run to be safe. when i show up,it is too late. you cant talk me out of it,you cant pay me, i dont make the phone call to check anything. i am a terminator. my instructions are, if i pull up to the curb,and i have not had a phone call to cancel the shut off,i am to procede with the termination,no matter what... even if they have a receipt that they just paid at a satalite payment center(which takes 3 days to get the info to us sometimes). sometimes i feel like a heel,sometimes i love it,such as ,when i see in my laptop info that the customer just hangs up on the rep that calls. or if the person chains a dog at the meter to prevent me from shutting off the electric,but i make friends with the dog and shut it off anyway... they cost themselves more money if they do things like that. a reconn fee is 50 bucks. but if i cant get to the meter because of a dog or it is inside or you locked the gate, we have to cut the power at the pole,and that takes a lineman crew to do that,and the reconn fee is 250 bucks and they have 3 days to reconn after payment is paid... i hit and run. i have my car aimed the right direction,i have all the stuff i need in hand to do the shut off. i print up the paperwork,tape it to the door,quietly go to the meter,and try to quietly shut it off,and get the hell out of there. 18 seconds is all i need once i get the meter in my hand usually...
it is a thankless job,but i love it. i am outside all year,by myself. i have a serius radio. i dont have to work with smokers,or listen to someone elses commercial radio station. i dont have to work with someone i dislike all day. i was in maintenance with my company for years,and it is tough to listem to co workers bitch about taxes/gas prices/thier bowling scores/how they hated disney land/where they are going on vacation this year,just everything... i like setting my own pace,the way i want to do it. i know some think they could never do this job. it does take a long time to get use to the yelling/dogs/tears/threats/just the tension.. alfred hitchcock said it best . "it's not the bang that scares the audience,it is the anticipation" and all day long i anticipate.
what happened to you does happen but i have not had it happen to any of my customers yet,but it could,but it is not the norm...
when people bitch to me about me shutting them off.i tell them, "you know there is a way to avoid this" or " you are blaming me for something i must do because you didnt do what you were supposed to do?"
my advise is , pay your bill on time,not just in time or past time .. and have sympathy for the shut off man, he is nervous enough,and it isnt his fault,it is yours ... usually...

on October 18, 2006 09:06 PM
# Rob said:

They totally did this to me as well. The online bill pay was sent and they didn't process it. The gave some sort of whining compaint about online billpay. Well the billpay just sends a check. They are totally incompetent over there. Last I checked it is the 21st century in the Silicon Vally and if they can't take and process an online billpay correctly then they really should be fired.

My dog groomer will take my online bill pay.

on September 27, 2007 09:23 AM
# Bob in the city over said:

Hey there man. I feel your pain. However, I'm 100% with Brian lee. Be happy you live else where other than Santa Clara in terms of electricity prices. Oh how I miss Santa Clara electricity prices.

on September 9, 2008 05:53 PM
# ServeTheServants said:

last month i got notice stating amount due $-107.42 DO NOT PAY. This month i got notice stating to pay $178.14 which includes past due balance of $107.42! And to top it off, when i go online to pay i get the message below. FUCK silicon valley power.

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at System.Data.OleDb.OleDbConnection.ProcessResults(Int32 hr)
at System.Data.OleDb.OleDbConnection.InitializeProvider()
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at DreamweaverCtrls.DataSet.DoInit()

on April 17, 2009 03:36 PM
# Paco said:

I hear and feel all of your pain. I am from Chicago and hate this fucken town of Santa Clara, The utility companies, the so called to serve and protect public clowns. OOPS I meant public servants that pay them selves betweem 90k to 120k per year of your hard income/tax dollars. Those clowns are just harrassing good honest and hard working individuals trying to survive in this expensive dump. The state is so broke that feel they will generate loss revenue in this manner. Worse trap I ever came across just as the 1st person named it a DOT.COM town that was attracting good people seeking a good life and fortune. Yes this fucken state is a real joke especially the education system. The only good thing here is the good people I met and have become friends with. They can never leave since their entire families are here, fortunately I have not planted any seeds here or could ever afford a decent home. My employers or company I work for are not worth staying for either, they do not have no real vision or respect for their employees with their direction of their 19th century attitude. I would rather live in the Mid-West or East Coast and deal with the cold once again. At least there, I will have a better quality of life, a nice home with a real yard and cute garden, sidewalks without the bums, neighbors that have respect for each other. Most importantly I could once again work to progress and prosper as oppose work to survive and struggle. I Love my Californian friends just hate the system and the corruption of its government and their officials with badges that feel they are above the law.

on October 12, 2009 12:49 PM
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