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PSEG’s $318,000 promotional mailer sparks some complaints

Mary Ann Fox, at her Ridge home on

Mary Ann Fox, at her Ridge home on Aug. 9, 2017, with glossy mailer she was sent from PSEG Long Island. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Mary Ann Fox of Ridge hit the roof when the latest color brochure from PSEG Long Island arrived in the mail telling her, “It’s about YOU — 24/7.”

The color brochure, which unfolds to more than 2 1⁄2 feet long, cost $318,000 to develop and mail and is part of PSEG’s annual $5.5 million advertising and marketing budget, the company said. Fox said that’s money better spent lowering rates.

“Since the people of Long Island have NO choice in choosing who distributes our power, isn’t this advertisement a complete waste of money?” she wrote to Newsday.

On Wednesday she added, “Everyone I’ve spoken to in my community said they ripped it up and threw it in the trash.”

PSEG said mailers like the one sent out this month educate customers about money-saving programs and keep essential lines of communication open — a core element of improving its JD Power customer-satisfaction rating.

PSEG this year has raised the utility from last to third from last among 138 utilities across the nation. PSEG also gets an incentive bonus for improving the customer satisfaction score.

PSEG spokesman Jeffrey Weir said the utility’s “data-driven” marketing shows that “informing customers directly about safety, savings and convenience leads to greater overall customer satisfaction.” Since the mailing went out, he said, hits to the “save-money” portion of the utility’s website have increased 750 percent.

PSEG said customers who use the “save money” advice on the site can save up to $200 a year on their bills.

It’s “important to continue to educate our customers about all of [our] services and solutions” because customers historically knew little about them, Weir said.

One longtime LIPA observer said that while slick brochures can increase awareness of a utility, there’s a more effective way to win over customers.

“The only thing that really works is to provide good service,” said Matthew Cordaro, a LIPA trustee speaking on his own behalf. Instead of separate glossy mailers, Cordaro suggested PSEG use inserts within existing bills.

“They are much more effective because you’re going to send the bill anyway,” he said. “It’s very cheap to do.”

After Newsday contacted PSEG, the utility asked Fox to sit on a new consumer panel the utility will launch later this year. It also offered to host a presentation in her retirement community to discuss energy-saving tips.

Fox said she agreed to listen, but her concerns about spending on ads and marketing remain. “I think the general consumer is very well aware of what PSEG does, and I think they’re also aware of what they don’t do,” she said. “I don’t think they [PSEG] listen to the community. They have to do something to bring down these electric rates.”

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