How to strike back at NSTAR

Is NSTAR Punishing Lower Cape for Herbicide Challenges?
How 3,000 Cape Codders could change the way NSTAR behaves

Are the continued power outages on the Lower Cape NSTAR’s way of punishing Eastham, Wellfleet and other Cape towns for objecting to their use of groundwater-polluting herbicides?  If you ask locals how they feel about NSTAR right now, most those we spoke with are far less than satisfied customers.


3,000 Cape Cod customers could cost NSTAR $5,000,000 to get it to change it's performance here.

It is especially ironic that Eastham residents among Cape Cod Today’s readers are commenting that the only place they can find an NSTAR truck is at a Dunkin Donuts far, far away from Eastham. 

As of Thursday noon there were still 65 homes in Eastham without power, 201 in Orleans, 157 in Brewster and 202 in Wellfleet.  All are estimated to be restored by Friday at 10 p.m. 

We find it ironic that the towns that led the way in stopping NSTAR’s toxic herbicide program are suffering from lack of the utility’s attention.

How YOU can fight back -
Only money will get NSTAR's attention

Many angry rate payers ask us, “How can I strike back at NSTAR?  How can I share my pain with them?”  

The short and useless answer is that you can call their 800 number, yell at them all you please, and it won’t get your power on any sooner.  Sure, some angry state legislators and the Attorney General of Massachusetts are looking into some regulatory actions, but those almost always end up with a big utility getting a slap on the wrist, paying their fine and stuffing their pockets some more.

Instead, we have some other ways that NSTAR customers might repay the utility for its neglect.  Now realistically a single customer can’t do much to annoy a big company like NSTAR – but 3,000 or so angry customers following some of these suggestions might get the utility’s attention.

“Strike Back at NSTAR” list: All six could cost NSTAR $5 million in profits each year

  • Switch Back to Paper Billing:  We all know that paperless billing is convenient and good for the planet.  We also know that this saves a company like NSTAR a lot of money. 
    The average household electric bill costs NSTAR 34 cents to mail, plus there’s the cost of the envelope, bill paper, insertion equipment overhead, human staff overhead and the return envelope. 
    Let’s say it costs NSTAR net $1.00 per household to mail out a bill.  If 3,000 angry customers cost NSTAR a total of $3,000 per month for a year, they’ve taken $36,000 off NSTAR’s bottom line.
  • Pay Your Bill by Mail:  Instead of using the convenient e-pay with your checking account option on NSTAR’s web site, we suggest you start mailing your bill with a check or switch your payment method to credit or debit card.  Either of these methods cost NSTAR more money to process. 
    If an average electric bill is $100/month at this time of year and they pay a credit card discount of 1.5%, that’s $1.50 per month you’ve cost them by using your credit card.  3,000 angry customers paying their $100 bill with a credit card could end up costing NSTAR another $36,000 per year.
  • Slow Pay Your Bill:  A lot of us frugal Yankees already slow pay our utility bills.  If you can do it without going past due or facing disconnection, we suggest that for the next year you pay your NSTAR bill five business days later than you have in the past.  While this would cost them fractions of a penny in interest, 3,000 angry people paying their $100 bill five days later than normal slows NSTAR’s cash flow from this region by $300,000 for five days for twelve months – a total drag time of 60 days over a year’s time. 
    That’s $3,600,000 in delayed payments over the course of a year.
  • Save Energy:  Reduce NSTAR’s profit by saving more energy around the house.  Most of us, with a little thought, could shave $10 off our monthly electric bill.  If 3,000 angry customers each saved $10/month on their electric bill, they’ve just denied NSTAR $360,000 in revenue over the next year.  Most of us are stingy enough Yankees that we’ll enjoy saving the money and find ways to save more.  There is no one more penurious than any angry Yankee.
  • Become a High Maintenance Customer:  NSTAR always talks about their vaunted customer service but at every turn they encourage you to patronize their self-service web site.  We suggest that, when you start mailing your check to NSTAR each month, you might want to call their 800 number every day and talk to a representative to ascertain whether or not your check has been posted yet.  Better still, if you see any branches near the power lines (which was a big problem during Irene) call NSTAR’s 800 number and report the branches.  Don’t save these up, either.  If you see a branch, call immediately.  If you go to the next street and see one, call them again.  If 3,000 angry customers start calling NSTAR at least once a day, their call center volume will increase by 90,000 calls per month or $1,080,000 calls per year.  That will get someone’s attention!  When you call be sure to speak slowly and clearly.  Sure, it’ll run up the minutes on their 800 number but NSTAR wants to serve you accurately and courteously.
  • Call Your State Legislators:  NSTAR hates government oversight.  Be sure to call your state legislators and let them know how you feel about the way NSTAR punished the Lower Cape.  Tell them you support Rep. Dan Winslow’s proposed legislation to pay rebates to those whose power is interrupted for more than a single day.  Support your town officials when they oppose NSTAR spraying herbicides over our sole-source aquifer.  Let the state public utilities officials and those who appoint them that you won’t stand for further rate increases requested by NSTAR.

All of these actions are easy for a single customer to carry out.  To a big corporation like NSTAR a single customer doing this is like a mosquito bite.  However, 3,000 angry customers sending this message to NSTAR is 3,000 mosquito bites. 

Sooner or later NSTAR will be forced to pay attention.

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