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 a.m. 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 two 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 a.m. 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 p.m. 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 theory, but it was totally mismanaged by the state and its web site contractor.
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.
Peter Stern, a former director of information services, university professor and public school administrator, is a disabled Vietnam veteran who lives in Driftwood, Texas.