Thousands try to pay mistakenly-discounted Memphis electric bills

Thousands of people have been trying to take advantage of what they mistakenly thought were sharply discounted electric bills because of a Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division glitch combined with a social media rumor, reports the Commercial Appeal. The utility in response suspended the ability to pay electric bills at 187 “self-service kiosks.”

MLGW’s kiosk vendor, Canada-based TIO Networks Corp., has ruled out hacking as the cause of the glitch in TIO’s system, said MLGW President Jerry Collins. A wayward decimal point is thought to have been responsible for the kiosk billing errors.

“They are working on the software problem now to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” Collins said.

… Word of the glitch and a false rumor that basketball star Zach “Z-Bo” Randolph had paid off bills with a $1 million donation quickly circulated Saturday morning, creating long lines at kiosks before the last one was unplugged around noon. Instead of its usual 800 or so Saturday customers, MLGW reported roughly 23,000 customers.

Although the rumor was false, Randolph has donated $20,000 a year to pay off utility bills. Even though he recently signed with the Sacramento Kings, he said he will still donate $20,000 this year. Memphians spurred by news of the glitch and rumor are raising funds to supplement Randolph’s donation.

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Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.
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