Dave's Letter to Utility Billing Services

October 17, 1996

City of San Jose
Utility Billing - Suite 150
777 N. 1st Street,
San Jose, CA 95112

Attention: Sharon Borden

I am sending this letter and the attached photocopies, at the suggestion of your assistant, Karen. I had called to complain that I am being billed a "late charge" of $5 when I wrote my check and mailed it in plenty of time to get to the Utility Billing department prior to the due date.

The statement in question is number xxxxx, dated June 17, 1996. My account number is xxxxx. The service address is xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx. I wrote check number xxxx on July 8, in the amount of $27.90 for the bill due on July 17, 1996. I mailed the check on the afternoon of July 8 or at 6:30 a.m. on the morning of July 9, 1996 at the United States Post Office Willow Glen Station or Branham Lane Station. For some reason, my check was not processed until August 24, 1996, a full week late.

Since I am unable to prove what happened to the letter after putting it into the postal system, the City is demanding a $5 payment.

Karen's suggestion was that I send a photocopy of my check register to prove that I am not lying about this matter (my words, not hers). Although I believe that the City is supposed to help the citizen, not to accuse the citizen of shirking his responsibility; and although I believe that asking for a copy of a citizen's check register is an invasion of privacy, I not only photocopied my check register, I am providing you with photocopies of the FRONT and BACK of the checks listed on that page of my register. All three checks EXCEPT the check to the City, which I believe were all mailed at the same time and at the same post office, cleared well in advance of August 24th, leading me to believe that not only is the City unfairly accusing me of doing something wrong, but that the City has a problem with timely handling of incoming checks. Or maybe the letter got stuck in a mailbag someplace and didn¹t get to you on time.

In any case, I am anxious to clear up this matter without it leaving a blemish on my permanent record with the Utility Billing department. It seems to me that the proper thing to do would be to give the citizen the benefit of the doubt when he has made a good faith effort to pay his bills on time, and has done so for a long time (20 years at another San Jose address).

In the alternative, what EXACTLY would you have me do other than to write a check for the total amount due and mail it 8 or 9 days in advance of the due date. I do not see what else I could possibly have done.

Please note that I delayed writing this letter for over a month so that I could maintain a more friendly attitude toward the hostile and accusatory stance the City has taken in this matter. Just before finishing this letter, I called the Customer Service number to be sure that, by some miracle, the problem might have already been solved, but I was met by a recording stating that the computer is down "this week." I will refrain from making a nasty comment about the ability of the City to properly serve it's residents/citizens/customers with or without computers.

I have tried to make this letter crisp and businesslike, but I am still quite angry at the situation. I would request that you review my letter and whatever records you have, and let me know if you are willing to "do the right thing," or if you are going to insist upon pushing this issue to a higher level. Please contact me if you have any questions about this matter. I hope to hear from you soon.

And I might add that some policies may need to be reviewed. Is it worth all the trouble you are causing people who have no way to prove that their check was sent and/or received on time?  I would hate to think of the trouble you would cause yourselves if citizens, in "self-defense," started sending their payments Return Receipt Requested.



David W. Schultheis

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Posted on November 4, 1996.
David W. Schultheis, San José, Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County, California, USA