Positively Your Call to Make, Protecting the Energy Consumer from the Unwelcome Prospector
Alphabuyer Blog “Voice of the Customer” Series
By Alina Marone
Alphabuyer, and contributing blogger
April 11, 2011
An energy consuming reader recently responded to one of my posts to relay his satisfaction with his established, reputable energy generating company AND his dissatisfaction with an unprofessional, irksome encounter with what I will describe as an “unwelcome prospector.” Nodding my head as I read through his post, the issues he shared with me were not unfamiliar. I am grateful for his post, as he ripened the moment for me to explore and discuss the emergence of the unwelcome prospectors.
With now 25 different energy generating companies vying for your business (once, or presently held by PECO, the 26th choice) consumers are going to see a wide variety and styles of marketing methods. You may actually never hear from some of the passive companies listed alphabetically on the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission (PA PUC) neutral information source www.papowerswitch.com. Other moderately motivated companies may mail you a piece of direct marketing or advertise on glossy paper delivered as part of your Thursday bulk flyer mail. In an unexpected electricity generating sales twist, I’ve seen a handful of acquaintances becoming “Independent Consultants” for multi-level marketing organizations. (I’m curious to follow up on how that really works out for them, you know, after the up-front investment.) Finally, the remainder will rely on contemporary methods such as banner ads on websites or live representatives in shopping malls, attractively poised at a banner-draped, clipboard covered table with irresistible logo’ed tschotskes and untethered pens. All of these styles and methods for reaching us in 2011 are prevalent. For the most part,we can take them or leave them just as they are, and remain unscathed.
What is less desirable in 2011 is the hard selling, unwelcome prospector at your front door (or telephone, one slight notch down from equally annoying). Personally, I’m uncomfortable anytime someone uninvited comes to my door with anything – especially the desire to walk away from me “scoring a sale.” My philosophy is, “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.” Doesn’t even matter if it’s a box of Thin Mints or my grandmom running for Congress, I don’t like being solicited at my front door.
It is my understanding from a thorough reading of the PA PUC website that door-to-door sales was never the vision for how deregulated energy would be pitched to consumers. I have all ready described the many effective and preferred safer methods for marketing in 2011. The gentleman who posted his actual experience was offended at the door-to-door method for this selling this particular discounted product, analyzing the risk far outweighing the benefit. I agree kind reader, I cannot logically reconcile the imbalance between the aggressive nature of door-to-door sales with the slim cost savings. The reader noted several red flags during his encounter. He felt the whole interaction was unprofessional, insulting and potentially exploitative. I wholeheartedly and instinctively agree it was time to give this unwelcome prospector a finite farewell with a wind stirring close of the door. Noted, many of us know that’s easier said than done.
The “switch” is totally your call to make and it should not be under the figurative “guns” of an aggressive, unwelcome prospector.
I want to leave you all with some direction if any of you ever find yourself in a similar situation, or have all ready experienced an unwelcome prospector and you want to know what resolve there is for such an encounter.
The PA Utilities Commission does have a two level complaint filing system. They encourage first using the informal complaint. That can be found at www.puc.state.pa.us/general/filecomplaints.
Pennsylvania’s Office of the Attorney General website also provides Pennsylvania consumers protection with a complaint process detailed at www.attorneygeneral.gov/complaints. Many may find the additional services focused on protection of seniors against crime and fraud especially helpful. If your unwelcome prospector felt predatory, you especially want to take action.
I want to conclude with the thought that this reader’s unwelcome prospector may not have been a representative of any of these energy generating companies, but rather using the [of all things] deregulation of energy as a good cover for prospecting for something more sinister. Help is an arm length’s away. That number to call for help is 9-1-1. Report suspicious activity. What you may feel was an “isolated incident” community law enforcement may be able to connect as part of a greater scam. Protect yourself. Protect your loved ones. Trust your gut. The call is positively yours to make.
I thank my reader for his own due diligence, clearly trying to better understand the sales structure of deregulated energy in PA and identify abuses. I urge you all to remain diligent consumers, trust your gut and make the call or contact that most satisfies your sense of security as well as your common sense.
Thanks for sharing. Thanks for reading.