For the better part of a month I've been mentally preoccupied as my father in law struggles to recover from a number of medical problems.  Between a stay in the hospital and then in a rehab facility I've spent a lot of time keeping him company and trying to raise his spirits.  He was there for me in the darkest days after my wife's passing and I will always be there for him when he needs me.

I'm glad to say he's finally back home and he's happy to be there.  On the day he returned home there was an envelope taped to his front door.  Well wishes from a friend?  Hardly.  It was a threatening notice from the gas company that they're going to shut off his gas in two weeks for non payment of a bill.  Welcome home!

My father in law received five shut off notices (Dale Mussen photo)
My father in law received five shut off notices (Dale Mussen photo)

My father in law has lived in that house for 40 years and has NEVER missed a payment.  NEVER.  But, while he was ill somehow the gas bill was overlooked. He missed one payment in 40 years and they're going to shut off his gas?

The threatening letter included a phone number with instructions that all would be forgiven if he immediately paid the overdue amount. So I called the gas company and asked if they first investigate the history of a customer before they threaten to suspend service.  I was told that they couldn't possibly do that because they don't have the staff, but somehow they found someone to drive out to my father in law's house and tape an envelope to his front door.  Nice use of resources, huh?

My father in law is a proud man and was insulted and angry to be treated that way so he insisted on paying off the bill immediately.  He opted to use a credit card...and oh, by the way, "that will cost an additional $2.95."

National Fuel is a monopoly.  If you need gas where else are you going to go?  There are dozens of natural gas suppliers, but for most of Western New York only National Fuel can deliver it.  And only National Fuel is authorized to disconnect your service and boy do they seem enthusiastic to do it.

To be fair I did contact National Fuel and a spokesman said that numerous phone calls, door hangers and letters would have been sent prior to avoid any termination.  I was told National Fuel has very specific mandates from state regulators on policy and procedures.

But threatening suspension of service after missing a single payment is heartless, outrageous and disgraceful, especially in the winter.  Has this ever happened to you?  I'd love to hear about it.

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