Salt Lake Tribune: Hacking to be charged today
Monday Madness: Sun 08/08/04

Utah Power drives me crazy

Utah Power ‘Making it happen’ logo
Utah Power’s feel-good (and vastly incorrect, as it turns out) slogan
Utah Power offers a refrigerator-recycling program called See ya later, refrigerator, in which they’ve contracted with appliance recycling firm JACO Environmental to haul away up to two functioning, but old and inefficient, refrigerators per address. Utah Power then mails a check for $40 for each unit to the homeowner.

My mom has an old fridge in her basement that fit this program’s requirements to a T.

Or so we thought.

They offer two ways to register. You can do it online or by telephone. The web site asks for simple basic information: Name, address, phone numbers, email address, appliance type (fridge and/or freezer), brand and color (though no idea why they need that), and appliance location. The only restrictions it specifies are that the unit(s) must be in working condition, and the person requesting the pickup must be a customer of the utility district sponsoring the program. Easy enough; the fridge is at least 10 years older than I am but still works fine, and my mom’s been a Utah Power customer for 31 years.

But the web site wasn’t working properly the day she tried to register that way, so I called to arrange for it the next day. This program’s popular enough that it was more than two weeks later when they could do a pickup, and in true 21st-century scheduling fashion, they gave not a specific appointment time but a “window.” That window was today, 08:00-12:00.

No problem for me. I grabbed some laundry I needed to do and got to my mom’s house at 07:45, figuring they’d get there either immediately after 08:00 or not until 11:59. Fired up the laundry, hung out waiting for the JACO folks to arrive. They knocked at 09:55.

The pair of them had a typical appliance hand truck, the wide style with tiny wheels and straps and rubber belts over the fenders to make sliding up and down stairs easier. I showed the team leader into the basement and to the corner where the fridge has stood for the better part of my life. He grunted, produced a measuring tape from some part of his person, took a couple quick measurements, grunted a few more times, walked over to the stairs and measured some more.

And that’s when the policy wonks reared their ugly heads.

Apparently they’re not allowed to manhandle the appliances up or down stairs. “Manhandle,” for them, means any type of lifting or moving operation that can’t be done directly with their hand truck. He’d determined by way of his quick measurements and grunting that the angles formed by the stairs from the basement to the main floor were not negotiable for the fridge on the hand truck, and since they aren’t allowed to do it except with the hand truck, we were S.O.L.

I said, “Why don’t your schedulers or web site explain these requirements so we don’t waste your time?”

He’d already told me they had 30 stops scheduled for today alone, and usually they run into this type of situation five or six times on such a day.

He mumbled something about the dispatching and the labor being handled by separate functions of the company, he didn’t know why the program’s rules’n’regs weren’t more clear on what the pickup team could/n’t do by policy, blah blah blah. Told me they’d be happy to pick up the machine if I could get it from the basement to the house’s main floor—ideally, to the front porch, but the garage or back yard would work too.

Ten minutes later they were gone. My time wasn’t entirely wasted because I got the laundry done, even though I forgot to check a shirt I’d stained, so the dryer set the stain permanently, goddammit. Now I have to figure out how to get a 400-pound refrigerator up a stairway that turns twice (it’s always turned twice, and it used to have a wall that’s no longer there, and we got it DOWNstairs lo those many years ago, but oh well), through the house, and arrange for another pickup window that’ll likely be another two or three weeks down the line.