A Pennsylvania woman started experiencing heart palpitations when she took one look at her electric bill earlier this month. With seven zeroes at the end of the bill, Mary Horomanski had to wonder just how much Penelec had raised her rates just in time for Christmas. After putting the number through her mental processor, she found that she owed the company more than $284 billion.
While the company generously did not try to charge her the entire account balance, they still demanded a meager $28,176 if she wanted to keep the lights on.
But even after paying more than half the average American’s salary, she’d still barely make a dent in the $284,460,000,000 bill.
Horomanski was so shaken by the astronomical balance. She turned to Facebook to share the screenshot with her followers. In the post that she put online on December 15, she wrote:
“If I’m not mistaken, it’s probably higher then the national debt. So if we sell everything we own & then some just maybe in 100 years, it just may be paid off.”
Instead of going to the electric company to correct the mistake, she went straight to the Erie Times-News to shame Penelec for their ridiculous error.
“My eyes just about popped out of my head,” she told the paper.
Although Horomanski used a lot more electricity than usual that month, she didn’t really run a bill up worth more than the two richest men in the world combined.
After being publicly shamed for their lack of attentiveness to detail, a spokesman from Penelec, Mark Durbin, was sent into the fray to defend their billing department. He says the mistake was simply a mistake of putting a decimal point in the wrong spot.
“I can’t recall ever seeing a bill for billions of dollars,” Durbin said. “We appreciate the customer’s willingness to reach out to us about the mistake.”
But since Horomanski is not worth billions of dollars, she has no way to pay such a large bill. And unless the electric company acts fast, she could be without power for the holiday season. And as temperatures drop during December and January, she could be left in the cold.
And still, part of her wonders if she should have bought the energy efficient Christmas lights after all.
“We had put up Christmas lights, and I wondered if we had put them up wrong,” she said.
Readers of UPI.com shared some thoughts about the story in the comment section.
“An electrifying display of business acumen on the part of Mr. Durban. Hope the CEO of Penelec didn’t rush out and purchase that Lake Erie island getaway based on this somewhat dubious 2017 year-end booked profits forecast. That bonus just took a hard hit,” Bill Gaydon wrote.
Donald Schullian was shocked at the employee’s response to the problem:
“‘We appreciate the customer’s willingness to reach out to us about the mistake.’ Tell me, Mark, just what did you think they were going to do???”
How would you react if your electric company tried to charge you $284 billion for utilities?