Imagine receiving an electric bill for $248 billion. Yes, BILLION! That’s exactly what happened to a Pennsylvania utility subscriber. A company spokesperson stated that, “Somehow, the decimal point was in the wrong spot.” It is also likely that the individual did not check their work.
In our Accuracy in the Workplace workshop, participants learn and practice proofreading techniques to confirm that a transaction is accurate. We also emphasize two tests – “Is this reasonable?” and “Does this meet my expectations?” If the information does not pass these tests, it is likely worth more exploration.
In the case of the utility error, it appears that the organization did not take these tests into account since it appears the utility company also offered a payment plan to cover the $284 billion bill.
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Although our accuracy training focuses on the individual and making sure they “get it right the first time, every time,” this is also a case where simple programming could have identified and prevented this level of mistake.
This type of error gets chalked up to a “Oops!” and everyone laughs it off because it is clearly a mistake. Unfortunately, the same types of mistakes (a decimal point in the wrong position and not checking one’s work) are made frequently in the workplace and they do not always get identified and fixed. For the electric company, this error hit the news and spread quickly through hundreds of news outlets…certainly not the kind of news coverage any company wants.