If you put up Christmas lights, you can pretty much assume your electric bill will be higher than usual. But when Mary Horomanski, an Erie, Pennsylvania woman, viewed her utility bill online, she was in shock. Her bill totaled $284 billion, with a minimum payment of $28,156 due for December and the entire payment due by November 2018.
“My eyes just about popped out of my head,” Horomanski, 58, told the Erie Times-News in an interview. “We had put up Christmas lights and I wondered if we had put them up wrong.”
But that doesn’t add up.
Even if her house were decked out like Clark Griswold’s home in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” using those highly inefficient bulbs, a mathematician figures the bill would only amount to an extra $11 a day. More realistically, though, 10 strings of 100 mini lights can cost families about $35 over the course of the season if they use incandescent lights. LED lights cost only about $4 for the season.
OK. So who has been leaving the living room lights on at night?
Horomanski’s son decided to call the utility company, Penelec, to better understand the multi-billion-dollar bill and get to the bottom of things. The company realized it had made the error, mistakenly tacking on some extra 0s. The new, corrected bill was much more realistic, with the decimal moving in a more favorable direction. The actual bill amounted to $284.46.
Mark Durbin, a spokesman for Penelec’s parent company First Energy, told the Erie Times-News he didn’t know how the error occurred, but it seemed a decimal point had accidentally been moved.
“I can’t recall ever seeing a bill for billions of dollars,” he told the newspaper. “We appreciate the customer’s willingness to reach out to us about the mistake.”
Horomanski was able to make light (pun intended) of the matter. She quipped that she should have asked for a heart monitor for Christmas.