"Get a subpoena": Washington Gas apologizes for bad customer interaction

Washington Gas offers a website to track their ongoing work projects and outages.

A resident of Geranium Street NW was being kept awake last week by a jackhammer outside her home. She looked outside and saw it was a Washington Gas crew working out in the street, the same crew she had seen earlier in the day. She hadn't received any notice of the late night work, and curious, she sent an email to Washington Gas. They told her to get a subpoena for the information.

When the resident first came home earlier that day around 5 in the evening, she saw a Washington Gas truck idling at the curb in front of her house. Along side was a large amount of equipment. She said she believed Washington Gas had been doing work the prior week and presumed it was more ongoing work.

Around midnight, the truck was still idling outside the home, and then they started using a jackhammer on the pavement. She checked Washington Gas' project/outage map to figure out what work may be happening in front of their house, and when it might be done. A jackhammer at midnight, if not an emergency, seemed very extreme to her.

There weren't any projects or emergencies listed on the map, so she sent an email to the Washington Gas customer support. Her email was polite and short:

I live at xxx Street and would like information about what work is being done by Washington Gas employees to our home. I don't see the project on Washington Gas' project or outage maps. 

She received an oddly hostile response telling her to get a subpoena for any information:

Your email inquiry was received in our office. We are not authorized to freely distribute private company reports and documents without the required court ordered subpoena for such information. As far as obtaining the documents from this encounter we cannot and will not distribute this information until you have shown the proper court documents requiring us to give you this information.

Should you have any further questions and/or concerns please contact customer service at 703-750-1000 or email us at customersupport@washgas.com.

Sincerely, 

M.Alvarado
Washington Gas Customer Support

Petworth News reached out to Washington Gas to see if this was normal. Not surprisingly, they said it was a mistake.

"Based on our research, we believe this call was related to a reported gas leak and repair work around 12:30am," wrote Bernie Tylor, a media relations manager with Washington Gas. "This customer interaction does not meet our high standards of providing excellent customer service and we apologize for the way this situation was handled."

The customer service representative should have offered a "general explanation of the work being performed to address a gas leak near this residence," Tylor said. He went on to say that in the course of providing emergency repairs, sometimes they have to work at inconvenient hours, however, they are supposed to offer explanations to customers who call or write to inquire. He apologized for the experience.

Everyone has bad days, most especially customer service reps (been there, done that). Requiring a subpoena, that's a first though.


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