Southwest Water Company – Updated (already)

I’ve had some recent issues with this company.  I have to use a local water company that is a subdivision of Southwest Water Company.

On Friday, August 5th, I got paid and went to my bank’s bill payer service and proceeded to spend all that money that was just deposited to my account that morning.  One of the payments went to SWWC.

Now, unlike ALL the other businesses I routinely deal with (with one exception), they do not accept electronic transfers.  So, my bank prints a check in my name and mails it off to the vendor that SWWC uses to process their payments.

Normally, this process goes without a hitch.  Except today.  Today, I got a notice that my water would be cut off if I did not pay them by August 22nd, 2011.  Now considering that today is the 18th of August, I was understandably concerned.  So I checked my bank to verify that I had indeed paid them.  I’ve been known to be forgetful, it happens.

Nope, I had paid them.  I had paid them on the 5th of August.  So called up, very concerned and the call center was, shall we say, less than helpful.  As of today, the 18th, the payment hadn’t been received.

The woman I talked to wasn’t interested in helping and refused to give me the name of the manager of the billing office.  Oh, how little did she know me.

It took me about 35 seconds to find the above website, the link to the Texas division, which granted me a phones number.  A quick call to the receptionist and I had the number of the Manager of the Texas Billing Office.  I had to leave him a voicemail.  That was unsatisfactory, so I went back to the above website and checked the investor section.  That usually contains the names of the big dogs.  Sure enough, a complete list of VPs and executives.

Then I remembered something really useful, the Texas division office had a phone book feature.  A quick call and a few button pushes yielded the Managing Director of the Texas division.  I had to leave him a voice mail as well.  Finally, because I was pissed off, I looked to see who might be in the best position to effect change.  Nice, they have a VP of Business Improvement.  Why not?

I put his name into the phone book system and he answered right off.  So I explained the above situation to him and he agreed that it was unpleasant and he said that he would see what he could do.

I had calmed down by that point and gone all the way up to a VP.  I would have gone to the president if they had one.  But that was enough for now.

Within a few hours, I got a call from the Managing Director of Texas (MDT).  He wasn’t very helpful either, blaming my bank for not processing my check as quickly as I thought they would and the US post office for being extremely slow.  I politely (yes, I actually was polite) disagreed.

The bank posts when they mail the check and the USPS might be slow, but even they can get a letter from Austin to Dallas in less than 13 days.  He told me if I could provide any evidence, then I could send it to him.  Again, he just didn’t have a clue who he was dealing with.

If you live in the Austin area and don’t bank with Amplify Credit Union, then you are not banking properly.  The people at Amplify are by far the best employees that I have ever had the joy to do business with.

So, I looked at my bill payer account and then called Amplify for some help.  The women I talked to was fantastic.  She walked me through the entire banking system of how a check clears.  I had this in college, many moons ago, but I appreciated the help.  She also told me how to check the clear date (i.e. when the receiver of the money actually gets the money).

This date was the 15th of August.  Wait a minute… today is the 18th and they say they haven’t gotten the money, but they money was sent to them (or their vendor) on the 15th. I copied some screen shots of my banking information showing this.

I called the MDT back and asked for his e-mail so I could send him the screen shots of my banking info.  He informed me that the payment had just been received in their system… on the 18th of August.

The MDT had been less than pleased at my insistence that it was the companies problem and not my, my bank, or the USPS problem.  So I thought, let me get the crown jewel here.  I called Amplify again and again talked with a wonderful woman who, while I waited, made a PDF of the cancelled check for me.  I was thrilled.  I was even more thrilled when the check was cancelled on the 12th of August.

Six fracking days and they still hadn’t gotten my payment.  Bwah hah ha.

So I sent an e-mail to the DMT with the following timeline

  • August 5th – I make arrangements to pay via bill payer
  • August 8th – the check is mailed
  • August 9th-10th – the check is received by the vendor (because it takes one day to process)
  • August 11th – the payment is processed by the vendor
  • August 12th – the payment clears the bank (i.e. my money has officially been transferred to the vendor)
  • August 18th – the account is cleared by SWWC

I said, what the hell and sent it to the VP of business development too.  I wasn’t given his e-mail address, but the DMT e-mails was firstinitiallastname.  It was easy enough to crib the e-mail of the VP of Business Improvement.

Finally, at about 3:30PM I get a call from the Manager of Billing Services.  I layout the entire setup to him.  He really seemed much more concerned by the fact that their vendor held the money for 6 days than anything else.  Six days of interest doesn’t sound like much, but we’re talking several major cities in Texas here.  A few hundred thousand payments (of a minimum of $125 each) with 6 days of interest can be quite a lot of extra income.  Not millions… hmmm…. I’ve got a calculator…

200,000 households averaging $200 per payment = $40,000,000

Let’s say that they can get 4% interest… that would be $1,600,000 per year.  But it’s only 6 days.  So divide that by 365, then multiply by 6 equals

$26,301.  If that vendor’s company is holding everyone’s payments for 6 days.  That’s a bit more than I make every month.

So anyway, the Billing Manager and the VP were very polite and seemed concerned.  The Managing Director of Texas seemed to be an ass… a polite ass, but an ass.

Oh well, evidence trumps belief.  He may believe that his company is without fault, but it’s his company or his vendor.  It’s not me, my bank, or the USPS.  That much is evident.

We’ll see how they respond.  I’ve got their e-mails and phone numbers, I will be checking back with them.

UPDATE:
Interesting… according to the Billing Manager, the director of billing had already researched the issue and I will be receiving an e-mail shortly.

Forgive me if I quietly say ‘bull cookies’.  There is no way they figured this out in 4 hours.  This isn’t ‘someone found a check on the floor’, this is six days where they don’t know where my money is.

I’ll update this again, when I get the e-mail from them.  To say I’m curious is an understatement.  It’ll be even more interesting to see what will be done about it.

 

UPDATE 2:

Turns out the fault does lie entirely with Southwest Water and the Texas manager had to say so.

Apparently, on or slightly after the due date of the payment, they lock the accounts of the people who haven’t paid.  No updates to the status of those accounts can be made until they are unlocked.

They are unlocked after the billing department finishes running delinquent letters and completes all of their processing, which takes about three days (according to Texas Manager Guy).  So, if your payment gets sent to SWWC seconds after the billing office closes your account, then no matter what, it cannot be processed for a minimum of three days.

The systems (vendor, billing, delinquent, IT) do NOT talk to each other.  Each must individually updated and once one group locks the account, nothing can be changed until that group unlocks the account.

Texas Manager Guy says (and this was verified through a VP at SWWC) that they are in the process of switching software to SAP and these issues will not occur anymore.  Further, the TMG suggested that they would look at the payment history of the customer before deciding to send a delinquent letter or a ‘gentle reminder’ letter.

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20 Responses to Southwest Water Company – Updated (already)

  1. shoshwrites says:

    Can you say pit bull?! :)

  2. Concerned customer of SWC says:

    Seems to me that you would not be having this issue if you had paid the damn bill on time. You have just wasted an awful lot of time, energy and money making this issue public when you just didn’t pay your bill on time. I live in Windermere. My due date says the 10th. You waited til the last minute and it bit you on the ass. Next time, may be you should call them first and own up to paying late and pay them directly. I’m pretty sure you can pay them by calling some automated system they got on their phones. Next thing you know, you will be trying to sue them because you can’t pay your bill in time. Jackass

  3. OgreMkV says:

    Interesting. It must be nice to have all the money you need whenever you need it. Unfortunately I do not.

    Further you seem to have missed the point, which is that a major utility has such procedures in place that mean, if you don’t pay the same day you get the bill, then you are guaranteed to get a late notice. Further this is sanctioned by the state of Texas.

    Finally I hope that if you ever have financial difficulties that people who talk to you are much nicer than you.

  4. Concerned customer of SWC says:

    The point is not about the money. It’s about the fact that you know you paid late and you are making this big deal about a late notice. When you got the late notice and looked your bank to see that the payment was paid, end story there. Instead, you waste time and try to create a sense of a bad company when you paid the bill late. This is not the welfare office and you don’t have the “right” to receive pity for having no money. No one is taking food out of your mouth. I stick with my original term….jackass

  5. OgreMkV says:

    I’m sorry, but you are not understanding. And you will no longer call me a jackass on my own blog. Your time here is over. This is especially true when you are too ignorant to realize what the actual concerns are.

    There are TWO major problems here.

    The first is that a company has blamed everyone but themselves for the issue. The managing director of the Texas division of this company blamed my bank for not sending the check* in a timely manner. They then blamed the US Postal Service for taking more than 6 days to get a letter from Austin to Dallas. I have proven that this is not the case. The fault lies entirely within their company and their vendor. This is not an assignment of blame, it is a simple evidence based refutation of the companies claims that everyone but themselves and their vendor are at fault.

    The payment was received over 10 days after it had been sent out. This was not my fault, nor my bank, nor the US Postal Service. Which brings me to the next point.

    This is 2011. If my payment had gone to any other of the 15 companies I routinely do business with, then the payment would have been received on time. It is major failure that any company (especially one so fundamentally important as a public utility) does not have a purely electronic billing and processing system. Again, I sent in my payment BEFORE the deadline. The late notice was sent 2 days after that deadline (on the same day my check cleared BTW). Further, and the Texas utility commission has been contacted. For a fundamental utility like water a 20 day late and water cutoff is entirely unacceptable.

    Now, I will refute all of your claims AGAIN. You said “This is not the welfare office and you don’t have the “right” to receive pity for having no money.” Show were I made this claim. I merely had to wait until payday. If I had made a payment (and I did) to any other company, my payment would have been received on or before the 10th (which was the due date).

    You said “Instead, you waste time and try to create a sense of a bad company when you paid the bill late.” I don’t think that helping a company find a major flaw in their operations is a waste of time. If you think so, then that’s probably one of the major problems with our society. People unwilling to do some basic research and tell others about ways to improve their business. Finally, I would like you to point out EXACTLY where I said SWWC was a bad company. I said, and this is correct, that they are doing something poorly. I applaud several of the managers attempts to figure out what is going on.

    Keep in mind that if all the payments are coming from their vendor 6 days after processing, then the vendor is making a lot of money in interest that may not being reported to SWWC.

    “It’s about the fact that you know you paid late and you are making this big deal about a late notice.” Again, I did NOT pay late. You apparently have difficulty reading. I paid 5 days before the due date and the check was mailed by my bank 2 days before the due date. That’s an unavoidable consequence of living paycheck to paycheck. I’ll remind you (because again, you seem to have difficulty reading) that I freely admitted that it was likely my payment would be late to them. However, I maintain that having the water cutoff 12 days after the due date, especially considering that it takes them over 6 days to actually process a payment is unreasonable. I realize that you disagree. That’s fine. Like I said, I just hope that if things happen to you as they have to me, that people are nicer to you than they are to me.

  6. OgreMkV says:

    BTW: I’d just like to point out that “Concerned customer of SWC” appears to be Chuck Profilet who is the Texas Division Manager of SouthWest Water Company.

    The IP address matches and this comment “This is not the welfare office” heavily indicates that it is an employee of SWWC. Only 3 people at that company have received an e-mail from me (and therefore a link to this blog), the evidence is very high that this is indeed the Texas Manager of SouthWest Water Company.

  7. em1davis says:

    I’ll add my two cents in. They have started accepting online payments now since I was late due to an expired credit card. Everybody else notified me that the card was expired and to update but not Windermere another sub company of SouthWest Water Company. And now because they have added all this extra stuff like electronic metering which should reduce cost they intend to double their rates so my $151 bill is going to become $239 because they are loosing money. (Yes I know that’s not double, they base rates are constant only the usage rages are going up and this include sewer which is only going up 10%.)

  8. OgreMkV says:

    I got that notice too. It’s amazing to me that a company that already charges 4 times what municipal companies charge is losing money and has to increase it’s rates.

    I haven’t watered my lawn a single day this summer. Family of 3, showers only, no baths, no car washing, no dripping faucets and the water bill is still north of $150 every month. Considering that my water bill in SE Texas was about $45 and that included garbage, it’s very shocking.

  9. kate d says:

    bravo.

  10. valerie says:

    Oh you are not the only person within the SWWC service area who has had problems with this company. I had the same thing happen to me. My check had cleared four days before the due date and I still received a threatening note telling me my water was going to be turned off for non-payment. I had to argue with them for days over that one. There is a group called TAMER (Texas Against Monarchs Exceive Rates) who have been fighting this company for years. It is a huge group with thousands of members and a team of lawyers working to stop these crooks. I am like you, I have no other choice but to use these people for my water otherwise I would change in a heartbeat. I got my bill today only to find out now they have changed the due date on us. It is now two weeks earlier than before so my payment last month was late. Of course it payment is not received by 5pm on the due date they slap a late charge on you. Now be bill is due before I get my check each month so unless I pay two months bills this time, I will always be late paying and have a late charge slapped on me. I am not planning to stay in this area, I hope to move sometime this year. If it wasn’t for that, I would look into putting in a well or a rainbarrel system which would pay for itself in no time. SWWC rates are outrageous. Their last request for a rate hike was denied by the courts but they had already put it into effect months before that so we paid the higher rate. Of course we are not getting any of our money back so these crooks stole from us once again. TCEQ is not much help as they get a kickback from these people.

  11. Texas JetStar says:

    Ouch! To all. Our wonderful MUD just started up with this company a few month’s ago and I have already had some of the same conversations over a bill double the normal (they sent some one out to check if we had any “leaks” nope, just in my back pocket it appears). As far as I have been able to tell, can’t find the online bill pay capability. Guess I will have to trot down to the local Grocery Store and see it I can pay there, OMG it is due the 8th wonder if it will make it on time ;>). As far as SAP is concerned, don’t get me started it is just an evil plot on corporate and government agencies to employ programmers! With all the foregoing it doesn’t bode well for me it appears.

  12. Robert says:

    I understand where you are coming from Valerie. My due date use to be the 15th, and now has changed to the 2nd. My rent is due on the 1st Friday of the month, and unfortunately takes my check. Now i am put in the possition that i am being forced to pay a late fee. I don’t even drink their water, or cook with it. I buy gallon water to cook with and bottled water to drink. I live in Bandera, and some of my neighbors have the same thoughts about the water, and the changed due date.

  13. OgreMkV says:

    I’d like to add another addendum here.
    After reading Robert’s comment, I checked my own bills. From November to present, the number of days in the billing cycle vary from a low of 24 days to a high of 34 days. The number of days between DUE DATES varies from 6 weeks to three weeks.

    I had two water bills due in December (the 2nd and 24th) and two due in February (the 4th and 26th) and no bill in January.

    What’s really surprising is that, in the middle of winter (i.e. no lawn watering, car washing, etc) my water bill varied less than $10 per bill cycle, even though the bill cycle varied by almost 30%.

    My understanding from the TEQC is that Monarch (and subdivisions) may NOT charge late fees during this time because they apparently implemented that SAP software I was talking about and it totally screwed everything up.

    If you have a late charge on your bill in the last 4-5 months, then contact the TEQC immediately.

    This thing is such a screwed up mess. I also learned that these MUDs can’t be changed because Texas law gives them a minimum number of homes to service so that they can make enough money to function. What the law doesn’t cover is a corporation buying up MUDs. SouthWest Water Company owns hundreds of MUDs in at least 5 states. And they are taking advantage of laws (like in Texas) that give them a guaranteed customer base. Even if the city of Pflugerville wanted to annex my property (which they do), they can’t until the Texas law changes, which can’t happen until (minimum) of 2013.

  14. R. Lynch says:

    I have the same problem with this company. Slow and antiquated system in processing payments!

  15. Jennifer says:

    I am writing this email because I recently moved to Pflugerville, Texas and feel that I am being unfairly charged by Windermere Utility. I have been here almost a month and just received my last first month’s bill: water. First off, I must start by saying that if one were to add up my electricity, gas, and trash bills, they would still amount to less than the bill I received from Windermere Utility Company, Inc (A SouthWest Water Company). For 21 days, my water and sewage cost me $73.37! There are only two of us in my 900 sq ft duplex and both of us work full time. My base charges alone add up to $33.04. I am charged a sewer usage fee of $28.20 that was “based on Winter average 5.0″; that means I’m being charged based on a rate used when I was not even renting the property! The price gouging has got to stop. I have spoken with several neighbors and they all agree: we are being charged way too much for water and sewage.
    The cost is not the only problem with the water either. All of my dishes have a white film over them after they have been washed from the amount of calcium in the water. It also has an odd odor and taste; I do not trust to drink it without first running it through a filter. Something needs to be done. I have researched this problem and this has been going on since at least 2009! Complaints are all over the internet with people stating that they have contacted both SouthWest Water and TCEQ with response, yes, but no help. Why do the state of Texas and the City of Pflugerville not care about its lower income households? My entire neighborhood is full of lower class, hard working Texans who can barely afford their bills, yet the state simply allows these monopolies to come in and charge its citizens whatever it wants. Do you reap some kind of profit from it? I simply can not comprehend why TCEQ agrees to the contracts provided by SouthWest Water Company when it is very obvious they are ripping people off.

  16. Jennifer says:

    I am writing this email because I recently moved to Pflugerville, Texas and feel that I am being unfairly charged by Windermere Utility. I have been here almost a month and just received my last first month’s bill: water. First off, I must start by saying that if one were to add up my electricity, gas, and trash bills, they would still amount to less than the bill I received from Windermere Utility Company, Inc (A SouthWest Water Company). For 21 days, my water and sewage cost me $73.37! There are only two of us in my 900 sq ft duplex and both of us work full time. My base charges alone add up to $33.04. I am charged a sewer usage fee of $28.20 that was “based on Winter average 5.0″; that means I’m being charged based on a rate used when I was not even renting the property! The price gouging has got to stop. I have spoken with several neighbors and they all agree: we are being charged way too much for water and sewage. The cost is not the only problem with the water either. All of my dishes have a white film over them after they have been washed from the amount of calcium in the water. It also has an odd odor and taste; I do not trust to drink it without first running it through a filter. Something needs to be done. I have researched this problem and this has been going on since at least 2009! Complaints are all over the internet with people stating that they have contacted both SouthWest Water and TCEQ with response, yes, but no help. Why do the state of Texas and the City of Pflugerville not care about its lower income households? My entire neighborhood is full of lower class, hard working Texans who can barely afford their bills, yet the state simply allows these monopolies to come in and charge its citizens whatever it wants. Do you reap some kind of profit from it? I simply can not comprehend why TCEQ agrees to the contracts provided by SouthWest Water Company when it is very obvious they are ripping people off. My boyfriend and I make just above they’re bill payment assistance gross monthly income amount, so we can not even catch a break through that. We are the lower middle class.

  17. yes i also am a victim of the over priced water company that serves me. I have lived here for allmost 30 years and have had several different companys serve me. My water bill started out at 19.19 a month. Now this service is only water,no sewage no trash service today my water bill is 153.00 month on a avarge. I no longer water any thing. No yard no trees only the dog because i have to. My bill has been as high as 250.00. I was shot paying it one month by 18.00 and they turned my water off. When i talked to them the vary rude lady told me they would turn it off for 3.00.What kind of place is this. They go to Austin to get the rate incressed and they are maxed out so they put a monthly charge even if you dont use a drop its 35.00 and then a water charge. As i said this is only a water charge. Is this GOLD i dont think so. We have to stop this from going on. This is RAPE. My name is david brown please email me at davidabrown69@att.net if you are fed up with this and want to put a stop to this. If you know any one that will help with this please feel free to email me . I live in Joshua texas in a sub divison call highcrest est-bluegrass estates. Please let me me hear from you

  18. well after i wrote the first blog i havent checked to see how much my water bill was for the comming month. While in the site i got off into a different part of it i came across a message that said RATE INCRESS STARTING JAN !ST 2014 Happy New Year you over priced piece of c…. well should of known. I am sure they must be charging me bfor sewage also. The madness must stop. This is higher than the electric bill that i recive. Again contact me at davidabrown69@att.net

  19. M3 says:

    I recently sold my house in Pflugerville (thank heavens). I had it listed and my bill for 37 days was $180.00 when no one was living there and I had the water shut off. I only turned it on a few times for showing and inspection. I feel horrible for the people in Pflugerville that have to use this company. David hope you get the madness to stop.

  20. davidabrown69 says:

    well this I going to be a long battle I know. I don’t have enough of the people that will have my back on this.I guess they like paying high water bills. I will keep ding what I can to change this monster but I need support. Thanks for at least letting meknow people are seeing some of the information thatis out ther n the struggle David

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