E-bills

In recent months, two friends have told me they used to pay their bills online but they’ve stopped and gone back to snail mail.

I was completely taken aback when the first friend mentioned this. He said he had recently completed getting all of his accounts offline and he was so glad it was over. He said paying bills online had been one problem after another.

So I wasn’t as surprised when another friend said the same thing awhile later but still some surprised. Was this a new trend?

I’ve never gotten organized enough to pay my bills online but I’ve assumed I should. I ought to at least get non-bills – regular account statements – online to save the hassle of extra mail and paper to file or toss. It’s on my mind, so when I bought an iPhone last fall and had to open an online account with my phone carrier in order to set it up, I almost starting paying my monthly phone bill online right there. But there was some trouble with their website and, just as I expected, after about ten minutes I had no phone service at all. So I figured I’d wait on paying the phone bill online — Let’s just let them screw up my phone service today, they can screw up my bill another time.

It was still on my mind a week later when I noticed an envelope on the floor under my desk. It was a utility bill. It was due the next day. I decided to see if I could pay it online right then. I could. But I had to open an online account. So while I was at it, I set it up to pay online every month. Of the choices available, I picked the one where they send me the bill by email and then I click in the email to go to their website and pay the bill online by credit card. I chose this over giving them my bank account info and paying automatically. I figured this way I’d be more likely to look at the bill and see that it made sense.

I felt good about getting one account setup, thinking it would get me rolling on going online with all my bills. But I was busy for awhile and then the holidays were coming and…ya know?

However this procrastination has caused me to think more about what my friends said and what I know now, first hand. For the past few months, this has been my online bill paying experience…

Each month, like clockwork, on or about the 13th of the month, my wife receives an email from this utility company telling her that our bill is past due. And each month she comes home that night and asks if I’ve paid the bill. And each month I try to remember exactly what the hell happened the last time I visited their clunky website – because every visit involves making multiple attempts at whatever it is you are trying to do and trying to remember one month later exactly what you were able to accomplish – and how you found a way to do it when the way they tell you to do it didn’t work over and over again…and now, a month later, I log back in, after looking up the password – “Why doesn’t it remember the password?” – and clunking around looking to find the status of my bill…and in the end finding that I’d done this for no reason at all!…

…because…

Each month, like clockwork, on or about the 13th of the month, my wife receives an email from this utility company telling her that our bill is past due. And each month she comes home that night and asks if I’ve paid the bill. And now each month I remember to do nothing…

…because…

Each month, like clockwork, one or two days after my wife receives an email from this utility company telling her that our bill is past due, I receive an email from this utility company presenting me with my new bill. Which is current and payable thirty days later.

We have at no time been past due. But this company hassles us every month. Like clockwork.

…for the past few months, this has been my online bill paying experience.

It’s the 21st century. I expect everything to work. I should know better. But it’s the 21st century.

It took a few months to get used to the fact that I should ignore a notice that my bill is past due. Remember to ignore that notice. Check. However, I’m not so naive that I’m stupid enough to contact them and try to straighten this out. I know a waste of time when I see one.

How many of these situations do I want to have? I know it’s not going to be the only one. Remember that Bob Dylan song, “Everything Is Broken?”

When I add my own limited experience to my friends telling me they’ve stopped paying their bills online, I start to wonder…should I pay all my bills online or should I quit while I’m behind?

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