Glitch sparks frenzy over MLGW bills; rumors of Z-Bo donation false

(Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A technical glitch and a false social media rumor are being blamed for a wild and at times frantic day for MLGW and their customers.

Lines at MLGW payment kiosks were out the doors at some places, and customers couldn't believe their eyes when they looked at their accounts.

Rumors surfaced on social media that former Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph donated $1 million to pay people's Memphis Light, Gas, and Water bills.

Phones starting ringing off the hook at WMC Action News 5 with viewers wondering if the rumor was fake.

Others across the city decided to brave the summer heat to stand in long lines at MLGW kiosks around the city, hoping it was true.

One of the people waiting in line was Tanaka Chatmon. After hearing the rumor, she immediately headed to a nearby kiosk. The machine showed her bill, which had been $570, was reduced to less than $7.

"Blessed," Chatmon said. "I'm like, 'why me?' I didn't this was going to happen. I didn't know if it was true or not."

MLGW president Jerry Collins held a press conference to clarify what had happened.

"That rumor on social media was completely false," Collins said.

First, he clarified Randolph had not donated $1 million. He said a glitch in several dozen kiosks starting on Friday caused what he called a decimal point issue, causing people's receipts to be inaccurate.

It's an issue he said did not affect the company's accounting system, but could have been caused by hackers.

"That appears to be a problem with payment contractor that MLGW does business with," Collins said.

MLGW immediately shut down the problematic kiosks and will reopen them once they fix the glitch.

The company also said they will give affected customers time to get their accounts in order and will not turn off their power.

"We apologize for any inconvenience that anyone has suffered, and we want to make sure that everyone's bills are kept in a good payment status," Collins said.

It's little consolation for customers like Chatmon who will now have to pay their entire MLGW bill.

MLGW is also investigating what or who started the social media firestorm in the first place.

MLGW will also not disconnect any customer for non-payment on Monday, July 10.

Customers who have gone to an MLGW kiosk or any other payment kiosk since Friday to pay their bills need to call MLGW at 544-6549.

MLGW said 23,000 customers made payments at kiosks on Saturday. The normal for a Saturday is 800.

MLGW said it will have extended hours on Monday. The five community offices will be open from 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.

Randolph also denied the rumor via his Twitter page.

The Coalition of Concerned Citizens released a statement regarding the MLGW issue.

During the weekend of July 08, 2017, Memphis Light, Gas, & Water Division customers were provided erroneous receipts via MLG&W's automated payment kiosks illustrating that their outstanding balances were paid in full after customers paid any dollar amount. MLG&W ratepayers were sincerely led to believe that they owed no further balance. In addition to the official documents provided by MLG&W systems, the issue was exacerbated by social media reports that Memphis Grizzlies Power Forward Zach "Z-Bo" Randolph was paying the remaining balances of ratepayers' who made partial payments on their utility bills at MLG&W kiosks.

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