MEMPHIS, Tenn — "My bill was due on the 28th and they cut me off yesterday on the 24th," Gabriel DeRanzo said.
That Monday morning surprise turned into a scramble for DeRanzo, finding A/C for himself and his children while on hold with Memphis Light, Gas & Water.
"It was almost a four-hour ordeal yesterday, it took 94 phone calls to get through three times," DeRanzo said.
DeRanzo wasn't alone in those struggles Monday, on MLGW's first day of disconnections since March, in which nearly 9,000 customers were cut off.
"The two people I talked to on MLGW were very helpful, but getting through to that point with thousands of other people, trying to do the same I was at the same time, was almost impossible," DeRanzo said.
"I just don't think they were prepared," Pastor Kia Moore of Memphis' The Church At The Well said.
Pastor Moore heard similar MLGW payment problems from 25 people in her congregation.
A MLGW spokesperson said Monday around 31,000 customers were at risk of being cut off with unpaid bills.
"They should have had more people. They should have fortified their technology. They should have made sure that their chats were working. They should have made sure that their website had the bandwidth to sustain it," Pastor Moore said.
MLGW told Local 24 News Tuesday afternoon: "All available staff are working and they are working longer hours. MLGW was prepared. Thousands of customers began to call us last Friday and Monday, the disconnect day. For more than two months MLGW made it a priority to use every communication avenue available to inform customers about the date we would resume disconnects."
The MLGW disconnections are expected through Wednesday and will be spread out based on the start date of a customer's billing cycle.
A list of utility payment assistance options can be found at: http://www.mlgw.com/covid-19.