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Dear PoPville: Washington Gas – Worst Ever?

by Prince Of Petworth November 29, 2012 at 11:00 am 42 Comments

Dear PoPville,

I’ve been trying to get Washington Gas to come restore my service for the past two weeks. There was an issue with the building’s account when I moved in, which meant that bills were piling up without me being aware – when I checked the account online, I saw completely different numbers. When they finally shut off the gas, I called and realized the problem, got it resolved, and scheduled someone to come turn it on. This was Thursday, the 15th, and the appointment was “between 7 and 5” on Friday, the 16th.

I’ve since gone through 5 attempts to have it turned on – the 16th, 19th, 20th, 27th, and today, the 28th. Each time I get no phone call, no sighting of their vehicle, no nothing, but each time they have some excuse: couldn’t get into the building, couldn’t find the management office, no one answered when they called, etc. I’ve taken two days off work to sit and wait for them, I’ve gotten my property manager to sit and wait, I’ve given them my manager’s cell phone, my cell phone, the password to the door, etc. For today’s visit, I suggested that they just come to my apartment, so there’s no trouble finding the right room, and I will lead them to the meters. They wouldn’t even need to call – just knock on the door. After waiting all day with no show, I call and learn that they came this afternoon, but couldn’t find the meters.

I am livid. It’s been nearly three weeks without cooking gas (and no microwave!). Each time I call, though the support staff are polite and (attempting to be) helpful, I get the same “we’ll reschedule for tomorrow” line. Only tonight, after I apologized to the poor woman on the phone for my vocal frustration, was I finally promised a call from a manager tomorrow to follow up. I have absolutely no faith that tomorrow’s attempt to restore service will be successful, and I refuse to take more time away from work, where people are starting to wonder why it takes to long to manage a simple task. My property manager is similarly angry, but there seems to be nothing I can do. The customer service line is impenetrable so far as trying to reach someone higher up. Washington Gas has a monopoly, and as a renter I have no choice in how I run my stove.

  • Pcat

    Call the DC Public Service Commission. They regulate Washington Gas and can help you with your problem.

    • anon


    • Actually, if you have a complaint about a local utility, you should contact the DC Office of the People’s Council. They are the consumers’ representative before the DC Public Service Commission and have a whole process set up for addressing these kinds of issues.

  • Daniel

    Although my issues w/ Washington Gas aren’t nearly as bad as yours, my experience with them has been puzzling. Since moving into my apartment in May, I’ve set up autopay without issue. They email me a statement, and then a reminder that the money will be debited on the day I specified.

    However, I received a bizzare email last week, indicating that I’ve been removed from the eBill program because they haven’t received my payment. Additionally, I receive a DISCONTINUATION notification in the mail, warning me that if I don’t pay by next week, my service will be discontinued. When I called, they’re puzzled, and point me in different directions, finally directing me to the website to set up autopay again. I paid the balance, and attempted to set up autopay, but was unable to because outstanding issues with my account.

    ?? Anyone else experience this?

    • EvilStevie

      Yes! Their website is awful. I’m somehow enrolled in E-Billing, and the email notices have been really inconsistent. My neighbor signed up for auto pay, and they hosed her too. Don’t remember the details, but something similar to your story.

    • Anonymous

      The ebilling simply does not work. It’s a travesty. I almos had gas turned off repeatedly until I gave up and went back to paper checks, the only bill I pay still with checks. Unbelievably that everything from mortgage lenders to porn sites has figured out simple reliable ebilling bt the f-ing gas company somehow can’t.

  • Irving Green

    It’s very easy to turn a gas meter on, but best performed by someone with experience. Call a plumber or track one down at a nearby construction project. They’ll have your meter on in < 3 min. Since the accounting is already worked out, this will not create any further billing issues.

    • While technically this is true (that it’s easy to turn on the gas at a meter) you need to know how to light a pilot light, otherwise, your H2O heater, stove, etc, is slowly spewing gas into your place until you get them lit.

  • C3PO

    Get the manager’s name, and get the name and phone number of his/her supervisor. Tell them you’ll be complaining high up the chain of command if another appointment is missed. Frankly, I don’t understand why this wasn’t your first course of action when the second appointment was missed.

    And when you finally have it restored, right a letter to someone with some authority explaining your experience (but make sure to praise those who did help you).

  • nloewen

    When I waited over 14 hours, and no one showed, I did what my mom told me to do (and what my grandmother did, too), and I called and told them I thought there was a gas leak. They came rather quickly after that.

    • Genius!
      I’d also call your councilman/woman and let her/him know the situation.
      If they aren’t there by 3 today – I say call in a gas leak!

    • Sadly, with Washington Gas I suspect that a report of a gas leak isn’t any more likely to get a response.

      The worst experience I’ve had with them was when we had a gas leak. It was in the evening and apparently the call center was basically deserted – I couldn’t get past the totally unhelpful representative who told me repeatedly that there was nothing they could do, that he had no supervisors or coworkers that I could speak to, and that I should basically avoid introducing any sparks until normal working hours.

      Just thinking back on it pisses me off. Maybe I’ll type up the whole comedy and send it to the DC Public Service Commission and DC Office of the People’s Council.

      Totally absurd levels of incompetence that would have been hilarious if it hadn’t been for the gas slowly building up in the house, I’m sure.

      • Anonymous

        That’s crazy! The last place I lived prior to moving here (and the place before that, too), the local utility had a dedicated emergency number and all I had to do was call and say “um, I think I smell gas in my apartment or somewhere nearby…” (I’m a little paranoid!) and they’d have a truck with two inspectors there within about 15-20 minutes. (Including one time when I called around 3:00am. Thankfully, I wasn’t just paranoid. Turned out my neighbor had a massive amount of gas leaking from her stove; how she couldn’t smell it, I have no idea.)

      • I don’t think you’re supposed to call the regular customer service link for leaks:
        Emergency Phone Numbers

        Call 911 – or – Washington Gas Emergency Leak Line: 703-750-1400 or 1-800-752-7520

  • That Guy

    My gas is much worse.

    • Anonymous

      Eat at Ben’s much?

  • anons

    Thats nothing, try dealing with DCWater.

    After spending 13 days in a row “waiting” for them to come by as scheduled to repair my collapsed sewer line, where I couldn’t run any water, flush any toilets or take any showers the entire time, and those yahoo’s just kept “no-showing” for nearly two weeks. I burned all my sick leave and half my vacation dealing with that.

  • Anon

    tweet a link to this blog post too!

    • Anon

      Yes! best idea! Twitter has become the new NBC4 On your side or whatever the consumer watchdog thing they had was called.

      • Anonymous

        7 on your side (ABC)

  • hate wash gas

    I’ve been in Washington Gas hell since February. It was discovered in February that my gas meter was crossed with my neighbor’s meter and that I had been billed for the wrong meter since September 2009. For nine months, I have attempted to get Washington Gas to reconcile my account and determine my actual gas usage for the period that the meters were crossed. I have spoken to Washington Gas representatives numerous times and filed a complaint with OPC and PSC, but the company has failed to resolve the problem. They actually don’t respond to OPC or the PSC. Amazing.

    I’m fairly certain they owe me a refund due to billing me for my neighbor’s gas (the same thing happened with our electric, PEPCO discovered the problem, fixed it, and refunded me $800 all within three weeks).

    • ah

      Well, now you’re going to get me started. Similar issue–they didn’t read my meter for nearly a year, during which time gas prices went way up. When they finally read the meter I basically got billed for a year’s worth of gas in one month (yes–the partial billings were minimal because this was after converting from oil to gas heat). I forget the exact amounts now, but it worked out that I was overbilled at least $800 (assuming more linear use, which isn’t entirely accurate). It took dozens of calls and several months before finally someone was willing to give me an account credit approximately equal to what my calculations showed it should have been.

  • ah

    To answer the question: Yes, they are.

    BTW, perhaps reporting a possible leak will get them out.

  • I would suggest contacting the Better Business Nureau and the DC PUblic Service Commission. We had a huge problem with Washington Gas when we first moved into our house due to the previous owner not paying the bill. We had similar issues with no show appointments. After talking to multiple managers and phone calls, we filed claims with both the DC Public Service Commission and Better Business Bureau. The BBB was extremely responsive, and they were able to escalate the situation so that some of the very higher-ups in the company were aware. They ended up escalating it so far that we had a technician out at our house at 11 at night.

    • The Better Business Bureau is just about as useless. I had a horrilbe experience with Washington Gas with what should have been totally routine — just trying to get gas service changed to my name for a house I bought. Hours of being on hold, only able to reach a real person by calling the Spanish line. Trying to become their customer! Why do we pay so much in taxes in DC and have such terrible service. It’s not a secret that this company sucks, but the City Council seems more interested in ruining good things (Uber) and putting up traffic speed cameras. Over it!

      • I’m sorry you had a bad experience with the Better Business Bureau. I filed a complaint with them online and I couldn’t be happier with their follow up.

  • cahbf

    File a PSC complaint. It will be resolved within 24 hours (for real)(in my experience).

    • I used the online form to contact the DC PSC, and I did receive a call from a woman there (Margaret – very helpful!) first thing this morning.

  • Hi everyone, emailer here with an update. I used the online contact form last night for the DC Public Services Commission, and got a call first thing this morning from them. I’ve been calling back and forth with Margaret at DCPSC who has been working with Washington Gas to get this resolved. The appointment scheduled for today was NOT successful – another excuse. They say they got into the building and knocked on my door but there was no answer. My partner was home at the time and said there was no knock. The property manager was there at 8:15 this morning, and also saw no sign of them.

    At this point, both my DCPSC rep and property manager have spoken to a manager at Washington Gas and managed to secure an appointment between 9 and 12 tomorrow (I have long been trying to get a narrower window than 7 and 5, with no success). My DCPSC rep will follow up with them to make sure it’s done. I haven’t yet been contacted by a Washington Gas manager, as I was promised yesterday.

    As some have suggested, I’ve tweeted this post. Thanks for everyone’s comments and suggestions! Like some commenters, I’ve had positive experiences with Washington Gas in the past, but this is beyond-the-pale terrible.

    • This is a big fail — why aren’t they on the way to your house NOW or by the end of the day at worse. They screwed up, they need to suck up the overtime and get it done. Horrible.

    • More update: My property manager checked his video camersa and found that the times when they said they had come in and knocked on the door or found it locked – he doesn’t see ANYONE approach the door(s). Whether the gas is turned on tomorrow or not, I’m going to contact the Office of Public Counsel and possibly a lawyer to see whether I have any claim against them under the Utility Consumer Bill of Rights – anyone know if this is possible?

      • I assume that this has been confirmed repeatedly, but is there any chance that they are at the wrong address? NE vs NW, or something?

  • Anonymous

    they are THE WORST. i had to get my gas reconnected after THEY turned it off in order to do work on my block. they kept blowing me off, so the next time i saw a worker on my block, i asked him right then and there to turn it on and viola! Washington Gas sucks.

  • When I moved into my new place last January, we needed to have Washington Gas turn on the gas. It took 4 days to get an appointment, so we went without gas the four days in the dead of winter. It sucked. Unfortunately, they never showed up for that first appointment and my co-worker had to burn a sick day.

    Fortunately, they came the 2nd day.

    Here’s the thing with Washington Gas – they don’t actually send out their own guys. These home installation/setup folks are all contractors, hence the level of service is awful and totally disorganized. Washington Gas contracts out the appointment to these independent guys and then they show up to do the work whenever they feel like it. This might even be a case where the contractor is defrauding Washington Gas – they are telling WG that they are going to your place and charging for work but not actually doing it.

    The only time you’re going to get real Washington Gas employees is when there is an emergency or construction. Otherwise, you’re just dealing with crappy contractors who could care less about providing good service (seems to be a common trend in DC).

  • Anonymous

    I’m shocked by this story and similar stories in the comments.

    The first thing I would do if folks like Washington Gas or PEPCO aren’t doing what they should is contact ANYbody and EVERYbody who might help–demanding to speak to managers/supervisors & call every phone number I could find for them on the Internet; calling/emailing my Councilperson/the Mayor/Del Norton, the BBB, whatever city dept might be involved, the local news; write letters; theaten legal action (I’d say they owe you want you spent on take out for 3 weeks unless they can prove they actually did show up for these appts); whatever.

    Seriously, raise hell. That is the only way the little guy ever wins.

  • Jesse

    Have to say I’ve had similar experiences with them. I’ve wasted days waiting for them, had my bills messed up (their online system is deplorable) and had them put out my pilot light and refuse to relight it (it’s the principle , not the task).

    If there is ever a disaster in DC I’m most afraid of what the response will be to rupture gas mains and leaks than I am about Pepco or WASA’s responses. It’s really unsettling that such an important service has ZERO accountability.

  • angry

    they are by far the worst utility company out there and should be shut down and replaced!!!!!! oh wait they are the only ones fuck them

  • Anonymous

    Tell them you have a gas leak and they will be right out!

  • Emily

    This same exact situation is happening to me right now! Took off from work, technician supposedly came but didn’t call or leave any note or anything. Tomorrow they are supposed to come again–for the 4th day in a row! I have been at my house every single day, but they are apparently showing up, “calling” and then running away. Not sure what I have to do to get my gas turned on in December.

    In my case, this is an apartment building, and the technician would have to call me in order for me to have any idea that they are outside.

    This company is absolutely ridiculous.


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