MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - MLGW continues to do damage control two days after a computer glitch and fake rumor that Zach Randolph gave $1 million to cover utility bills caused chaos.
MLGW President Jerry Collins said the utility company was made aware Thursday or Friday with what was believed to be an isolated problem with one or two payment kiosks.
But, they quickly learned Saturday morning the problem affected their payment kiosks and third party terminals all across the city.
Collins said it appears very likely that a citizen went to pay their MLGW bill and found the outstanding amount had been drastically reduced. That customer then made a post on social media with the false claim around 7 a.m. MLGW staff discovered it roughly half an hour later.
Collins said the post spread like wildfire, creating a perfect storm and that is when MLGW realized the issue was more widespread and affecting a large number of outstanding customer accounts.
He said the utility had saved the post, which has since been deleted. MLGW plans to reach out to the person who made the post.
"When you put something on social media, I think we all have a responsibility to be truthful and put the facts on social media because a little bit of misinformation or something that is not quite the truth can cause a lot of people to be inconvenienced," Collins said.
Some customers said they rushed to pay their bill when they were told the utilities would be shut off. Customers like Edwardyine Ayers said MLGW should take responsibility for their part in the chaos.
"Just disappointed in the fact that they're not taking ownership in their half of what's going on," Ayers said.
Ayers said she received a call Friday she needed to pay her MLGW bill or it would be cut off. When she tried to pay it Saturday morning at a store on Lamar Avenue, the clerk told her it was $6. She said she didn't even know about the fake rumor regarding Z-Bo.
Ayers said MLGW should have spoken up about the problem with the payment system before things got out of hand.
"Take your responsibility in what's going on. It was a glitch that caused the issues in the system, not the rumor, and not the machine," Ayers said.
Collins said he believes the glitch with the system helped spark the rumor.
"I think that the problem with the kiosks contributed to the birth of the rumor," Collins said. "From a payment standpoint, no one was adversely affected."
MLGW issued a statement blaming the kiosks, which are owned by TIO Networks:
The utility is not cutting off any customer accounts for nonpayment Monday and they are crediting the payments, many of which were in the $5-$10 range, but ultimately the utility said customers still must pay their outstanding bill.
MLGW said the payment kiosks are out of service until further notice and they are working with the vendor to fix them.
Now, a campaign called 50 for the City, honoring Z-Bo's #50, is working to raise money to help with utility bills. Any money raised will go to MIFA's Plus One program. It's the same program Z-Bo donated to during his time in Memphis. The program helps provide assistance to those needing help paying utility bills.
"We want to celebrate his [Z-Bo] exit with this need that we saw super visible this past week when folks thought their MLGW bills were going to be covered," city action strategist Ellen Roberds said.