Service of Paying Your Bills

July 31st, 2014

Categories: Bills, Responsibility

Paying bills 1

At the time I thought my mother was obsessive when she’d send money to her credit card company before leaving on an extended trip. She had a good credit line so she didn’t need to worry about using it up. She pre-paid because she wouldn’t be home to mail the bill in on time. I can’t point fingers at the behavior now as it has rubbed off on me.

Seems thousands of Detroit’s water department customers don’t share this practice. Some 17,000 of them ignored their water bills—including giant corporations, the city and state. I heard Sarah Cwiek describe the situation on NPR. Water at most—but not all–of these accounts was shut off at once.

Drinking water 3Exceptions to the shutoff were General Motors that owes $millions and is disputing the bill and Chrysler that paid its debt. The city owed $20 million for its municipal buildings, has paid $4 million with the rest in review and the state owes $5 million. The state says it isn’t responsible for leaky pipes on the fair grounds and therefore doesn’t owe the money.

Darryl Latimer, deputy director and chief customer service officer of the Detroit water and Sewerage Department told Cwiek he couldn’t say why people ignored their water bills.

Drinking water 2The water department took what some describe as this dramatic step in an attempt to restructure a bankrupt and poorly managed service in record time. In spite of receiving shutoff warning notices with past due bills some felt that before initiating a massive shutoff the department owed its customers a major, widely publicized warning and before shutting off the water, someone should have researched which of the accounts served customers with young children and the elderly. Some approached a UN Panel because they felt the shutoff was a human rights violation. The panel declared it would be such a violation only if it affected people truly unable to pay.

Since I heard the program and began to write the post, Hannah Hendler at The Agenda Project wrote the following in a July 24 email: “DETROIT’S WATER WARS — Detroit placed a temporary halt on dangerous water shutoffs following concerted action by the Detroit Water Brigade, People’s Water Board Coalition, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, We the People of Detroit and many more.”

Are you easygoing or rigorous about paying your bills? Are you more diligent about paying some bills than others? Do you believe that Detroit’s water department should have taken a softer approach to get the money due it? Should there have been any exceptions to the shutoff? How do people expect a waterworks to function without the money to run it?

Water faucet

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6 Responses to “Service of Paying Your Bills”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    Bills are no fun, but if one doesn’t want to be annoyed by creditors, one pays. When going away, timely payments are made much easier by scheduling them ahead of time.

    Detroit’s water department was wrong to bow to huge corporations while hanging the smaller, and often the needier, customer out to dry. Costly law suits, followed by ugly publicity, alleging loss of health/life, may set them straight. This happened to Con Ed. (i.e. Grandma and Grandpa found frozen stiff due to cut in service) A cruel lesson awaits Detroit, and hopefully relief for its victims.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You pointed out what bothered me about the way the non-payment was handled: The waterworks didn’t turn off the spigot of entities that could pay and hit on helpless folks who could’t afford, for example, to travel to relatives who live where water, well, works or stay in hotels or buy bottled water.

    Con Ed charges so much and ups rates as though we all work for hedgefunds. The fact that gramps and grammy suffered so and died is the worst given the amount of money the rest of us pay them.

  3. Horace Peabody Said:

    Twice in my life, I worked for companies that were, in truth, bankrupt, but nobody knew it except for a few people at the top. A sure sign of bankruptcy is corruption, and it is usually everywhere in such entities.

    Detroit is utterly and publically bankrupt. If I were still living there and had not already moved to a healthier city, I, too, would be reluctant to pay my water bill. Who knows whether it is correct or not? I don’t want to be gyped. I’d never get my money back.

    How do you fix a bankruptcy? You change the people and get rid of all the rotten eggs. That is what the companies I worked for did. But with a city, how do you get rid of the people? You can’t.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Wow…I never thought of that: Maybe the bill is inaccurate, though you would have previous bills to compare it to and you’d know if something was out of whack. Now you have me thinking: Is my enormous Con Ed bill accurate? Whom do I trust?

  5. Edward Baecher Said:

    Edward Baecher wrote on Facebook: Always thought the water bill should be incorporated in property tax: Simpler, less paper work, personnel, stamps, etc. (more streamlined)

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Brilliant solution. Detroit didn’t think of that [nor did I].

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