Alabama Power will shut down 40 offices across the state by the end of the summer, including ones in Heflin and Jacksonville, the company announced last week.
“More of our customers pay their bills and manage their accounts electronically, and electronic payments are our fastest-growing payment channels,” said Jacki-Lyn Thacker Lowry, an Alabama Power spokeswoman, in an emailed statement.
The company is shutting down the locations “to adapt to our customers’ changing preferences toward doing business electronically and through authorized payment locations by offering more convenient, self-service choices than ever before,” Lowry’s statement read.
Asheville, Wedowee, and Alexander City are among the locations that will close by Aug. 2, according to Lowry. Many of the offices being closed are in rural areas.
Customers at the Heflin and Jacksonville offices on Monday said they were disappointed at the news of the closures.
“The people who work here are very friendly staff,” said Jane Brown, a resident of Heflin, who was paying her bill at the office there on Monday.
Brown says she has continued paying her bill in person because she knows for a fact the bill gets paid and is not lost in the mail. Brown also expressed concern over hackers stealing her card information online.
Additionally, she appreciates the customer service she receives at the Heflin office, and knows “more than a dozen” others who forego electronic payments in favor of in-person interaction.
Daniel Rey Bryant, another patron of the Heflin location, also prefers the human element.
“I don’t know much about online business,” said Bryant, who was also paying his bill in person Monday. “The people are really nice.”
David Pilkington of Angel Station paid his bill at the Jacksonville office on Monday. Pilkington said he found coming to the office easier than paying online.
“If you go online you have to go through the process,” said Pilkington, referring to the auto-payment process Alabama Power offers.
Ashley Ray, another customer at the Jacksonville office on Monday, said she doesn’t like paying online or by mail.
“I want to make sure it gets where it’s supposed to,” Ray said.
While many people in rural areas still pay their bills in person, use of electronic payment services has been growing, according to Lowry.
“Customers can also set up autopay online,” Lowry wrote in her statement.
Lowry also said many of the locations being closed are within 5 miles of five other authorized payment locations, retail stores such as Wal-Mart and Dollar General where Alabama Power customers can pay their bills;Lowry wrote that there is a convenience fee for those services.
Lowry also wrote that customers can set up an auto-draft payment at no extra cost.
Many of the offices being closed were exhibiting declining traffic, Lowry wrote.
Lowry said Alabama Power is helping employees who work at closing locations to find positions elsewhere.
“Our intent is to work with all affected employees and provide them as many options as possible to manage their careers,” she wrote in her email.