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in extra expense, bad money, and repairs made necessary by breakage in theft of deposits.
Anthony T. Pleune, Cadillac:
I have with a great deal of care and study, read Mr. Shaddelee's paper and believe it a most excellent one, dealing as it does, largely, with that important element of our business, money, for truly that is what our directors and stockholders are looking for.
I heartily agree with the views set forth, most of which are followed by our company.
We have found that since requiring a deposit or guaranty, with an application for gas-a policy which we have followed for the last two years—it has decreased our bad debts.
Mr. Shaddelee does not state whether he advocates a deposit or guaranty on prepay meters. We have the same rules governing both kinds of meters, thus protecting the company in case of theft; and it also does away, to a great extent, with people asking for them, in order to avoid making a deposit.
The idea of not requiring a deposit from people who own their property they live in, I believe is all right, for they as a rule are permanently located and not apt to be moving about. The percentage of dead beats among property owners is very small, for usually a dead beat has nothing to show for his dishonesty.
If deposits are required, even in a small town that is constantly growing, it will be the means of protecting the company from dishonest people who are moving in.
Taking out of meters for non-payment should be a last retort for in many places the public is not any too friendly towards public service corporations and if our wrenchies are used too freely it has the tendency of increasing the bad feeling already existing.
If a higher rate of interest is paid on deposits than that given by banks, no great objection to a deposit can be raised by prospective consumers.
I agree with Mr. Shaddelee, that in certain cases a prepay meter is very useful, but for extensive use they are as a rule, not a good thing from the gas company's point of view.
In the first place they add to our money invested on account of the extra cost, and secondly, they are in many cases a source of extra expense and trouble. Who has not received a phone message, stating that “the prepay meter refuses to work ?” follower hy "Yes, we have carelully followed the instructions on the meter, having put the quarter in the same way we always did.” A fitter is hurried tɔ the scene only to find that a five cent piece or some other coin has been inserted. Personally, I have received such calls at my home in the evening making it necessary to either hunt up a fitter or go and investigate the trouble myself.
The point advanced of keeping a separate acount of each prepay meter is an excellent idea, for as stated, one can tell at a glance the exact condition of each account, and thus readily detect when a prepay attachment does not shut off, or is in any other way defective.
One prepay meter, set at a consumers request, invariably brings other requests, the prevailing idea being that they are more economical; also that they have the advantage that the gas bill is always paid, and thus not losing the discount by oversight.
We have discontinued their use, except in cases where it is to the company's interest to set them, using in defense of our position such arguments as, gas going out at unexpected moments, often spoiling a batch of baking and also the difficulty of not always having quarters in the house.
I believe that by teaching our customers how to read their meters and then to read same weekly, one can overcome to a great extent the demand for prepay meters; then they will know just how much gas they are using and can easily check any waste.
I don't believe there is any reason why a gas company should become a coin collecting agency. When other than good United States twenty-five cent pieces are found in the meters, they should be taken to the customer with the request that he redeem them and that he understand that on the offense being repeated the supply of gas will be discontinued. Our meter readers are instructed to examine all coins and if any are found plugged or counterfeit to return same to the customer, demanding good ones in ex
change. Needless to say, that only on rare occasions are any found in the meters.
Regarding “Methods of Securing Payments of Gas Accounts,” the seven points advanced are of great importance and cover the ground very thoroughly. The best and only method, is to exercise the greatest care in extending credit and of following up all past due accounts systematically.
Emory P. Davis, Holland :
What I shall say in discussing this paper is not intended for publication but is what, in my humble judgment, entirely fair to both consumer and company regardless of size or local conditions of the city.
As said by the author of this valuable paper, the policy of requiring consumer's deposits, if properly exercised, is not only a good policy for the company, but one that is entirely tenable as between the company and consumer. "Properly exercised" is the question that has been discussed "pro and con" by many office managers but it seems that we are far from being of one mind in this respect. Some set rule should be inaugurated rather than to pass judgment as to the consumer's credit. If a deposit has been collected from one man and not his neighbor, you will be placed in a very embarrassing position when called upon to explain the reason. Exact a deposit, or the guaranty endorsement of a property owner, from every new consumer, provided the consumer himself does not own real estate. This rule to apply to all old consumers who become delinquent, before taking them on again. I contend that a gas company can successfully carry out this rule without creating ill feeling. When the application for gas is made you can not arbitrarily state your rule in a "take-it-or-let-it-alone” way; a polite explanation as to why we are compelled to do this will satisfy nine out of ten applicants. I have noticed that the man who puts up a strenuous kick against paying a deposit, or having his application indorsed, needs watching. There is nothing unreasonable or unfair about an established rule of this kind and especially where a fair rate of interest is paid.
I have taken almost the opposite stand on this matter from that of the author, but when the honest man who rents is consuming gas without a deposit or guaranty indorsement, it is rather hard to deal with his less reputable neighbor when he makse application. We have the uncollectible, who is a so-called property owner, and we can take our chance on him for his personal gas account, bar when it comes to accepting his endorsement for another, then the credit man should decide. Prepayment Meters.
My experience with prepayment meters has been very satisfactory, both for the company and the consumer. It is needless for me to state however, that you must have an honest man in charge. It is also unnecessary for me to go into detail as to why, but I will say that if any one of you have trouble with the money collected from prepayment meters being continually short of the gas consumed, let out the man that has charge of them.
A few very favorable experiences with the prepayment meter:
In places where the consumer has fallen in arrears with no apparent hope of catching up. Instead of cuting off the gas, install a prepayment meter set at a higher rate and credit the difference to his old account. This will enable you to retain a profitable customer where otherwise you would lose both old debt as well as the consumer.
Thechronic kickers who make it a habit to come to the office every month with a complaint.
For obtaining new business in some districts where business would not be desirable on any other bais.
In a paper by Mr. C. Luebkeman read before the Wisconsin Gas Association, is recommended an attachment on the meter that will register the number of coins—quarters—inserted in the meter so that his coin register reading may be taken every time the money is gathered. This, in my estimation, is a most brilliant idea and as soon as such a device i invented, that soon will the prepayyment meter question be solved. Methods of Securing Payment of Gas Accounts.
Most gas companies make out an unpaid list immediately after the last discount day and a notice is mailed to each delinquent consumer. This, of course, is all that is necessary for the consumer who has merely allowed his gas account to slip his mind. But then comes the other class that never pays until the last minute. In order to keep down unpaid gas accounts, never premit any one, not even the president of your company, to run over thirty days. The above rule is said in few words but much is to be read between the lines. All notices and letters pertaining to this should be polite and business like ; care should be taken that we are not too abrupt but let it be understood that we niust treat all precisely alike.
When it becomes necessary to discontinue service for nonpayment, should they have no cash deposit or guaranty endorsement, do not consider the account lost, but keep after them. It is not only this unpaid account that you are after but, the chances are, that after a settlement is made you will soon have this consumer back on your list again,
A good collector is an artist and he owes his success more to his state of mind than any other one thing. The mental attitude of the collector should be that of a proprietor of mutual interests. I believe in ayniding legal action as long as possible, for it is always unpleasant and many times unfruitful. Again I mention politeness, as it is very necessary in collecting. To antagonize the man who owes us results in the loss of his friendship and possibly the account.
It is likewise imperative that no promise be made to a consumer that can not be fulfilled. Many times payments are withheld simply because we do not live up to some agreement.
A good maxim to keep in mind is—Watch your unpaid accounts closer than yyou watch your money vaults.
George C. Turner, Coldwater:
In discussing this very interesting paper, I do so entirely from the point of view obtained from experience in two of the smaller towns of our state, and that experience coincides exactly with Mr. Schaddelee's statement that "the character of the population of a town is a determining factor in deciding whether or not it is advisable to use a large number of prepayment meters, for in one of these towns we had in use only three prepayment meters and required no deposits or guarantees, yet our annual