I live and work in Northern Virginia just outside Washington, DC. For those of you who know the area, I’m about a mile from CIA headquarters in Langley.
We recently received our electric bill from Dominion Virginia Power with an insert that at first I thought was a joke. Dominion is offering to sell us a natural gas or propane-powered backup generator with the come-on “Be Prepared…Don’t be left in the dark.”
I guess it makes better business sense to sell me backup power than to try harder to keep my power on. There’s some history here that you don’t know about unless you live or work in Northern Virginia. Dominion Power is remarkably unreliable. During high winds or heavy snow, we can count on our power going out. Dom Power officials say they’re doing the best that they can but customers claim the opposite. One of the issues that comes up again and again is that of tree trimming because the number one cause of power outages is tree limbs falling on power lines. Dom Power says they’re cutting trees away from power lines all year long; consumer groups dispute that and claim that its cheaper for Dom Power to cut trees after they fall then to do so before a power outage.
Back to the backup generator. I called Dom Power and a spokesperson told me that outages are inevitable and generator sales help consumers. Dom Power, being ‘power experts’ is in an excellent position to offer first-class installation of such generators, the company contends. When I asked if it would be better to place greater emphasis on keeping the power on rather than offer to sell me a $5,000 generator, the answer was: “Dominion Power does everything it can to keep power on even during emergencies like hurricanes but that power outages are sometimes out of our control.”
In my opinion, Dominion Power is not the only company that prefers to put a quick bandage on products and services instead of getting things right from the get-go. Comcast Cable, which also services my area, promises customers $20 if they aren’t on time for the installation. Cable companies are notorious for keeping customers waiting; Seinfeld had a whole episode wrapped around this theme. Why not just make sure you’re on time, cable guy? AT&T wants to sell you a 3G Microcell gadget that acts as a repeater, giving you better cell phone coverage in your house or business. Why not just improve your service AT&T - something IPhone users have been grousing about for years?
I can’t prove it, but I believe some PC companies find it cheaper to send out bad products and replace them when a customer squawks rather than spend money on quality control. Any PC companies’ names ring a BELL?
The bottom line is this: It’s unethical for companies not to do their best in everything they do. I know that the numbers don’t always back that up… sometimes it’s cheaper to take returns then to test products before they leave the factory or to offer unreliable service and handle later the customers who are inconvenienced.
Sadly, companies can get away with this for quite a while, but it’s the wrong way to run a business.
The William G. McGowan Charitable Fund provides grants in three program areas including Health care and Medical Research; Education, and Community Programs for Those Most Vulnerable. It gives priority to programs that have demonstrated success, measurable outcomes, have a plan for sustainability, and aim to end cycles of poverty and suffering.