As a furniture store owner, Chris Gaines is used to seeing big bills, but she wasn't prepared for the shock of a recent electricity bill.
The amount: $918,611.58, courtesy of the Baltimore Gas & Electric Co.
Gaines, who owns Your Living Room and Sleep Center in Edgewater in Anne Arundel County, said that when she first looked at the bill, the numbers just didn't register with her.
"I read it," she said, "and thought, wow, nine-one-eight, comma, six-one-one, period. Gosh, that must be $918,611."
She said the normal electricity bill for her 2,900-square-foot store is $200 to $250 a month.
After recovering from her surprise, she notified BG&E, she said, "and they acknowledged it was a mistake."
"It was human error," agreed company spokesman John A. Metzger yesterday. Gaines, who notified the company of the error in November, will be getting a corrected bill this week, he said.
Gaines's troubles go back to June when she bought the Edgewater store. A BG&E worker came out June 28 and reset the store's meter to "zero," part of a periodic accuracy check. But that information never made it into the utility company's billing computer.
That meant the computer continued to base its bills to Gaines on the accumulated electricity consumption recorded on the meter since the previous accuracy check some years earlier, an amount totaling more than $900,000.
The amount was so great, in fact, that "the computer kicked it out as too high," and Gaines received no bill for several months, Metzger said. Still, nothing was done.
In November, Metzger said, Gaines was sent the bill for $918,611.58. According to Gaines, it included a $12,000 "late payment" fee.