One woman got a power bill so large that it left her heart pounding and mind racing in full fight or flight. Upon logging into her utility providers website, she was greeted by a bill for $284,460,000,000.
Mary Horomanski says of Pennsylvania said, "I opened it up and there it was. Hundreds. Thousands. Millions. Billions . . . Can most people even count that high?" She took her glasses off and tried putting them on again.
"It wasn’t due until November of 2018," she explained. "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 at the time, they could tell she was distressed and asked 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 said. "When you see something like that, your heart starts beating, you break out into a little sweat, like, ‘What on earth just happened’?"
The mother of five boys took stock of the electricity their house was using thinking that maybe the newly installed Christmas lights were set up wrong and caused the massive bill. "We had put up Christmas lights and I wondered if we had put them up wrong."
"We had Christmas lights outside, but we don’t have the ‘[National Lampoon’s] Christmas Vacation’ lights," Horomanski said. "And I’m looking at my Christmas tree, and I’m like, no, that wouldn’t have caused it . . ."
She text messaged an image of the bill to her son who immediately contacted their electric company Penelec. It turns out the bill was an error and the actual amount due was $284.46. Even this amount is high compared to her usual bill of $161.
Horomanski also text messaged an image of the bill to local media who wrote a story that went viral. Mark Durbin is a spokesman for First Energy, Penelec's parent company, and he says he doesn't know what caused the error.
"I can’t recall ever seeing a bill for billions of dollars," Durbin said. "We appreciate the customer’s willingness to reach out to us for the mistake." Horomanski is just thankful that the company didn't try to automatically pull the balance out of her account.
"My son Mike and I were both saying, almost simultaneously, 'Holy bologna, could you imagine if I had that automatic payment and it just came out of the account'?" she said. "I could not stop thinking about this."
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