The Appliance Rebate Program

Inept Government

The Appliance Rebate Program

8 April 2010 at 8:32:54 AM

More Government Ineptness:  The Appliance Rebate Program

We can only hope that most states manage this program better than Texas did.

The Appliance Rebate Program (ARP) actually is a good idea by the Obama administration.  The concept of the program is to boost retail store appliance sales and give some rebate incentives for consumers to replace existing appliances that are energy wasters.  In addition, the old appliances must be recycled.  Every household could apply for a total of 2 rebates; the two appliances had to be in different categories.  In addition, each applicant who wanted more than one rebate had to leave and then gain access again after obtaining the first rebate.

Good plan, right?  Maybe, but the state of Texas totally mismanaged the program.  How could it not expect the thousands of applicants who wanted rebates and why didn’t the state manage the rush more competently?  There is no excuse.

The plan was implemented on April 7th and the Texas State Energy Conservation Office (TSECO) managed the program.  Weeks before, consumers were notified of the program and were directed to a new online site at which they could apply for the rebates by reserving them online.

As an option to online contact, Texas consumers also were provided a toll free phone number.

Then the problems began at 7 AM on April 7th.

For whatever reasons, the TSECO did NOT plan correctly to handle the thousands of consumers and contractors who wanted to apply for the rebates.  The site and phones were hammered with applicants and few could gain access to complete the rebate forms.

Initially, the sites rejected thousands of online consumers.  The phone calls received busy signals.  Prospective rebate applicants kept on trying, but grew frustrated and angry.  Many placed phone calls to the Texas Comptroller’s Office to complain.

TSECO tried to fix the problems, but already it was too late.  Thousands of Texans were trying to get a piece of the $23 million dollars worth of appliance rebates, but only a few of that number were successful in doing so.

TSECO then shut-down the online site for 2 hours to make urgent changes to the site.  Even when the site reopened, most Texans were rejected from the site.  Many did receive the reservation for the appliance rebate, but more did not.

I had tried since 7 AM by dialing the phone number AND at the same time tried to gain online access to the site.  For many hours I could not gain contact on either option.  The same held true for thousands of other Texans.

Finally, at 1:30 PM I was able to access the application form and reserved a rebate for a “clothes washer”.

I wanted to apply for another rebate, for a refrigerator/freezer, but again I could not gain access either vial computer or phone.

Two more hours and I was able to gain computer access but only to be placed on a rebate waiting list.  Already, the $23 million in rebates had been totally reserved with thousands of Texans left out.

The Appliance Rebate Program may have been a good idea in concept, but it was totally mismanaged by the state.

If government either at the national, state or local levels cannot manage such a small program, how will it manage larger ones, e.g., the national health care program pushed through by the Obama administration and Congress?

Texas consumers still are applying for the rebates even though there are none available.  They will be place on a long waiting list.  The only way those on the waiting list may obtain a rebate is if money becomes available.

The rebate process requires many steps within 60 days and of the thousands of Texans who reserved their rebates, hundreds may not complete the process; thereby, opening up a reservation for someone on the waiting list.

Management of this program was deplorable and there is no excuse for the incompetence displayed by the state and TSECO.  Now, it’s too late for most Texans to obtain an appliance rebate.  By the way, did anyone consider the disabled population?  How was that population supposed to deal with the insanity?

There was ample time to avoid such chaos in managing a positive program to help people and to spur some retail sales in an otherwise dismal economy.  Texas failed miserably and hopefully other states will learn from it.




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1 - salon   8 Apr 2010 @ 9:02:24 AM 

What a horror story. I wonder if other states had a similar problem or if Texas was spectacularly incompetent. As you said, it wasn't like there wasn't enough time to try to plan for what was bound to bring out people in droves.

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2 - pstern   8 Apr 2010 @ 3:49:18 PM 

There is an article in the Austin Statesman re: this insanity.  The Comptroller blames the contractor, but I blame the purchasing office because it obviously did NOT review the experience of this contractor Helgeson Enterprises.  If it had done a thorough investigation prior to its hiring, it would NOT have hired the contractor.


Here is the first paragraph or so:

Comptroller’s office ‘not satisfied’ with rebate program

The state comptroller’s office isn’t happy with a contractor’s handling of the statewide appliance rebate program, after thousands of Texans could not get through on phone banks and an Internet site that were set up to handle requests on Wednesday.

In a letter to Helgeson Enterprises, state program manager Lisa Elledge said the contract called for the vendor to host and maintain a Web site “with a minimum monthly uptime of 99.9 percent.” The vendor was also responsible for operating a call center with an average handling time of 5 minutes, an “abandon rate” of less than one percent and answer speeds of 20 seconds for at least 80 percent of calls, according to the letter.

Read more here.


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3 - salon   8 Apr 2010 @ 4:04:30 PM 

Sounds like they found some company on the cheap.

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4 - pstern   8 Apr 2010 @ 8:12:45 PM 

...and on the stupid!

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5 - pstern   8 Apr 2010 @ 8:15:16 PM 

I am curious.

Does anyone else have a personal story about trying to get the Applicance Rebates?  Thousands of Texans have to be really pissed-off that they didn't get one.  You can air out your anger and/or frustrations.


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