Angry Shelburne County senior explodes on NSP customer service

Greg Bennett
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Nova Scotia Power crews are working across western Nova Scotia to get power returned. Some are expected to be waiting until Friday though.

Editor's note: Update to this story. Phyllis Wolfe and her husband had the power returned on Wednesday night, the day after this story was published. She would have called us earlier but her phone service was out.


Phyllis Wolfe is angry.

For four days and counting, she and her husband have been without power since the passage of post tropical storm Arthur.

For two days she tried to call the Nova Scotia Power customer service with no luck.

Frustration over that, and the fact that she and her 84-year-old husband were lugging buckets of water from their well, about 100 metres from her home, led her to blow up at an unlucky customer service representative when she finally got through on Monday night.

“I almost dropped the phone. I was so mad I could hardly speak,” said the 78-year-old Port L’Hebert resident, who unleashed her pent up frustration over the situation on the representative. “I’m not a bitch normally. I feel bad about the way I spoke to that girl last night.”

While she feels terrible about losing her temper, Wolfe says her anger over the situation is still justified.

“It burns me up. I’m sitting in the dark and there’s an automated voice telling me there’s no appreciable outages in your area.”

Wolfe says years ago Nova Scotia Power had local crews of employees out trimming trees and clearing lines in preparation for storms, something she believes the company is doing less of now.

“We used to have crews who knew the area …they knew every pole and line in every backyard there was,” she said. “I talked to a power line guy yesterday who was here from Bridgewater …what does he know about Shelburne County?

She also believes that the executives of the company should be paid less and more focus be placed on preventative maintenance and hiring more repair technicians.

“The CEOs are making four and five million dollars a year and they’re putting our power bills up every other year,” she said. “They do away with our essential workers instead.”

I almost dropped the phone. I was so mad I could hardly speak

Wolfe says part of her frustration is from the confusion that comes with living in rural community that has its east and west portions separated by a body of water and a county line. Dealing with company representatives who have no idea where her community is, is normal. But she believes too often it adds to the response time for crews.

She noted that last winter she spent four days without power.

“This happens all the time to us,” she said. “We go through this every single storm.”

An Nova Scotia Power spokesperson couldn't comment on Wolfe's specific case but offered that the company was trying its best to rehook customers under extremely challenging circumstances. What began with about 200,000 customers off the grid on Saturday was down to 12,800 customers still without power on Tuesday afternoon.

"Every storm brings lessons and we will be looking into every aspect of our response," said NSP spokesperson Neera Ritcey.

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Recent comments

  • Gail Hamood
    July 10, 2014 - 11:36

    I agree with Mrs Wolfe, our bills keep going up ,the service keeps getting worse,its not the fault of the crews that are out trying to get everyone back up and running,its the CEO's that are,as far as Im concerned looking out for themselves and bringing in 6 figure paychecks while they keep cutting essencial services,, its Sick

  • Paul
    July 09, 2014 - 22:06

    Nothing will change! NSP doesn't need to change anything! They own NS! And rates will go up again next year to pay for the work done this year!

  • Maryln Boudreau
    July 09, 2014 - 17:06

    I feel sorry for the seniors but if they have already experience black outs why not invest in a generator. We bought ours 7 yrs. ago after a black out. They are lucky it wasn't winter. It's time country ppl like us invested in generators. Give hyrdo men a chance to do their jobs. We were without for 5 days an were greatful for our generator.

    • Shirley Parker
      July 11, 2014 - 00:01

      With all due respect to Maryln Boudreau ... many seniors can't afford generators. You are fortunate that you could afford one, but that is not the point. The frustration is not with the hydro men who DO their jobs's with those at the top who suck money from us and from "the hydro men & women" who do their job with none or very little appreciation from those at the top, who are constantly looking for ways to cut them out of their jobs while they suck up the gravy! I don't think these seniors or anyone else who complains about the services NSP provides are wrong ... just frustrated and getting very angry. We pay big bucks so why should we have to be "in the dark" for 6 days!!!! Also ... even if seniors are fortunate enough to have a generator ... that doesn't mean they are capable to use them with ill health and weakened muscles!

  • Troy Bruce
    July 09, 2014 - 15:28

    I hope that the frustration that everyone is dealing with does not go to the linesman. That is not the problem, you have to look at upper management , that is who has screwed this province.

  • Mr. Michel R Sizaier CD
    July 09, 2014 - 10:30

    If the company was doing its best, it would be burying the power lines so they wouldn't get damaged in the storms that go through Nova Scotia.

  • Shelley
    July 08, 2014 - 23:44

    Try to imagine the over whelming amount of phone calls NS Power was getting, it no doubt locked up the system and people weren't getting up to date info. They brought in workers from all over to help out and get people restored as soon as possible, you don't need to know the area, you need to know how to restore service. I know it is frustrating, especially for seniors, but the linesmen have been doing the best they can, working 24 hours a day getting people restored as soon as possible. With the amount of time it's been taking, that gives proper indication on how bad the damage is out there, it's not something as simple as flipping a switch. During Juan, people were without power for 2 weeks...this could have been far worse. People need to prepare better for these storms by having food and water on hand.

  • david
    July 08, 2014 - 22:40

    I am a Tree Trimming contractor in BC and feel this ladies frustration. Basically what's happened is these utility companies have been taken over by college degrees who have no clue about how to run a utility. To make it worse they won't listen to the people who have boots on the ground experience. Seems to be happening right across the country. There are so many people getting north of 6 digits at BC Hydro they have lost count. Very frustrating!

    • George
      July 10, 2014 - 12:53

      Excellent insight into the management philosophy today. No field experience- focus on increasing the bottom line and forget about the service you SHOULD be providing.

  • brian davis
    July 08, 2014 - 21:16

    all I got to say is they should do more work on keeping to line trimmed up because I know in my area they done a piss poor job of it

  • Jack Morrison
    July 08, 2014 - 21:04

    Apparentlly NSP executives are slow learners when it comes to service but quick on the draw when it comes to guarenteed income. About time they started sticking to the basics, taking care of their customers, hiring back the linemen they have layed off and updating the power grid which dates back to the seventies.

  • David Cunningham
    July 08, 2014 - 16:41

    Maybe if Nova Scotia Power Took some of the Millions of dollars in bonuses provided to a few and put that into hiring front line workers - the work would be done much quicker.

  • David Cunningham
    July 08, 2014 - 16:40

    Maybe if Nova Scotia Power Took some of the Millions of dollars in bonuses provided to a few and put that into hiring front line workers - the work would be done much quicker.

  • Tammy Jakeman
    July 08, 2014 - 16:37

    Mr. & Mrs. Harris should also be told that many of the people working on the power lines on South Shore, are contractors hired by NSP because NSP is not replacing line technicians who have left the company because of the threat of the contracting out of jobs. Sadly, if NSP million dollar executives keep going towards the contracting out idea, this will be the level of service we will get from now on... while their salaries and bonuses keep going up.

  • Harris Buchanan
    July 08, 2014 - 15:14

    Mrs Wholf is right about the maintence that should be done on most of our power lines brush cutting and tree topping is number one !!