We have had a trash problem at our house for the last year. Last Fall we did a full-on, post-pandemic house cleaning. We collected a large amount of stuff you can’t just shove in a garbage bag. Broken furniture, toys, outgrown athletic equipment, various broken or otherwise unusable things that we just needed to get out. We took all of it and piled it on our porch until it could be disposed of. When we were done, I called our city government to schedule a bulk trash pickup (we have to pay extra by $25 per the “2 cubic yards” load to dispose of bulk trash). To my shock, I was told that the city had suspended bulk trash pickup until further notice, and it would probably be resumed in the Spring.
I could have called a private company, but the cheapest I could find was going to cost more that $250 for a single pickup without a contract, and it had already begun snowing, so I really didn’t want to start a major outdoor project, so I took my chances and waited for Spring. In late May, I discovered that bulk pickups had resumed. A few days later, I suffered a major back injury that put me in the hospital and left me laying in bed for most of a month and a half. Needless to say, my back, and the strain it put on my family, were far more pressing concerns, and the trash engulfing our home just wasn’t a priority. Now it’s fall again, and after months of physical therapy my back is working again, and I was desperate to finish the cleanup.
On Monday, I called my city to schedule a bulk pickup. When the lady who does such things called me back, she said “We can schedule you for tomorrow.” I replied that there was no way I could move that whole load myself in one evening, so could we move it back to a later date. She told me, “That’s fine, we can pick it up on Wednesday”. That was still a little fast, but I know how hard the city can make things if they think you’re being a pain in the ass, so I replied, “Great, thanks, I’ll have it out by Wednesday morning!” I then reworked my schedule for Tuesday, so I would have a few hours in the late morning to start moving things out.
That morning, I started moving out my load for pickup at around 10:30 AM. By noon, I needed a break, so I went inside to get a drink and check my messages. At around 12:30, I got ready to start again. As I walked onto the porch, I discovered a city truck parked out front and a city employee loading trash into it. I told him he shouldn’t waste his time, because I still had 2/3 of the load to bring out, and my scheduled pickup was for Wednesday anyway. He replied that he “had the sheets”, and that I didn’t have a pickup scheduled, so I better not bring out any more trash before I called the city and scheduled a pickup properly.
I told him that there must be a mistake, that I had just scheduled my pickup calling the “bulk pickup” number yesterday afternoon. Worried that I was going to have to pay for two separate pickups, or worse, that I was going to be fined, I asked him to wait a minute while I called the city. He got an angry look on his face, and said “Fine! I’ll call the city too!” We both called. While I was still waiting for the message on the line to complete, he hung up, said, “She’s not answering”, and started to get in his truck.
I asked him to hold on, because I didn’t want this to turn into a fine, and he waved his tablet at me and said, “Oh, the fine is already in the system.” I became a little upset, and asked him not to do this to me, because I did everything right, and he yelled at me over the sound of his revving truck engine, “You DIDN’T do everything right! Your pickup day is Tuesday!” as he drove away. At the time, I had no freaking idea what that statement even meant…
Of course, there was no answer at the trash pickup number, so I left a long message detailing what had just happened and went back inside. Hours later I was still waiting for a call back. I left three messages in three hours, in hopes that my nuisance value alone would force them to at least acknowledge me. And there I was, with a porch full of trash still waiting to go out, but no idea if I was even allowed to put it on the curb!
At about ten past three, the nice lady who makes the trash reservations finally responded. She confirmed that she got my messages and talked to the city worker in question, and said that she had resolved the whole thing. She also told me the fine had been cancelled and that I was still scheduled for a pickup the next day. I actually asked her why the city employee on the street had been yelling at me about not scheduling for my pickup day, and she just said she really couldn’t say what he was talking about. After I hung up, it occurred to me: I can’t imagine what a nightmare this could have turned into if I hadn’t just happened to walk out the door when I did. At the very least, I could unknowingly have incurred two pickup charges *plus* two fines. And I would have had no way to prove I was in the right, because it never occurred to me that I have to record every word a city employee says to me so I don’t get screwed!
Wednesday morning I got a call from the city employee who “put the fine in the system” the day before. He non-apologized that scheduling for a day other than my normal garbage day was not allowed, and that “she shouldn’t have done that”. He reiterated that no fine would be assessed.
He then went on to tell me that contrary to the published rule of “two cubic yards” the load rule was now actually “a pickup truck bed-load” and that my carefully measured 80 cubic feet of trash (2.9 cubic yards, or 1.5 loads, by the published rule) filled “two and a half truck beds”, so I was being charged for three loads, not two.
So yeah, I’m not being fined, but I’m also paying $75 for a $50 pick-up! I wasn’t stupid enough to start a fight with someone who has already proven he will change the rules to suit his grudges, especially over $25, so I actually thanked him before disconnecting. It was mortifying…
Just another example of the fine work being done by a city government who raises our taxes every year while doing a worse job! Seriously, if the real estate market wasn’t so insane right now, I’d uproot my family and get the hell out of here in a minute!