Mary Horomanski, from Erie, Pennsylvania, was shocked recently when she received an erroneous electric bill displaying an account balance of “284,460,000,000,” with a first payment due of $28,176.
“I opened it up and there it was,” she told The Washington Post.
Horomanski, 58, began counting the commas (“Hundreds. Thousands. Millions. Billions . . . Can most people even count that high?”), then taking her glasses off and putting them on again.
“It wasn’t due until November of 2018,” she said. “It was like, well, I guess we have a year to come up with this billion-dollar bill.”
Horomanski’s husband and one of her sons were home with her when she checked her bill online, and they began asking if she was okay.
“I’m looking around the room and they’re looking at me now, ’cause I’ve got this funny look on my face,” Horomanski recalled Tuesday. “When you see something like that, your heart starts beating, you break out into a little sweat, like, ‘What on earth just happened?’ ”
In a brief moment of self-doubt, the stay-at-home mother of five boys also took stock of the electricity her household was using.
Horomanski texted an image of the bill to her oldest son, who immediately contacted Penelec, their electric company.
The company quickly reassured him it was an error, Horomanski said.
The correct amount was $284.46 – still a little high, to be honest, compared to the previous month’s bill of $161, Horomanski thought. But at least not a figure that threatened to send her into cardiac arrest.
Mark Durbin, a spokesman for First Energy, Penelec’s parent company, told the Erie Times-News he didn’t know what caused the error.
“I can’t recall ever seeing a bill for billions of dollars,” Durbin told the newspaper. “We appreciate the customer’s willingness to reach out to us about the mistake.”
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Amy B Wang