My name is Robin Kaye, I’ve been Robin Kaye for 71 years. Despite this longevity, Hawaiian Electric doesn’t believe me.
My legal name is Ian Robin Kaye, but I stopped using Ian when I was just a kid. Many years later the Transportation Security Administration entered our lives — and I was now required to display my full legal name on my passport. This, of course, set in motion many dominos. Once my passport showed not just Robin Kaye but Ian Robin Kaye, all my accumulated frequent flyer miles faced deportation unless they were switched to the name on my passport. I had to submit a copy of my new passport, along with some other basic information — account number, mailing address and email address, to each airline. It was aggravating, but pretty simple.

Next, all my credit cards had to be updated, since sometimes (especially when away from home) you’re asked to show some form of identification when using a credit card.

Hawaiian Electric building Richards Street downtown Honolulu HEI HECO. 28 jan 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
New regulations require ID with a home address. But getting the ID to match a HECO utility bill is not so easy. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2015

All that was relatively easy, until it wasn’t. Enter the new regulations for renewing a Hawaii driver’s license. Remember when you showed up at your local DMV, took an eye test, got your picture taken and walked out with a new license? Forget that. Now you need two forms of identification showing your current residence, one officially proving your social security number, and some other form of identification — like a passport.

Because we have no home mail delivery here on Lanai — we all have P.O. boxes — having a document proving your physical residence is problematic. I learned the best way to do this was with a utility bill, which shows the physical address where the utility services are delivered. Of course, the name on those bills must match the name on the passport, so I now need to update my name on the bills.

Customer Unfriendly

Okay, so I take out my three utility bills — Hawaii Gas, Department of Water Supply for my sewer, and our Maui Electric bill. (Maui Electric is a HECO company.)

First up: Hawaii Gas. No problem, says the customer service representative: “Just email us a photo copy of the passport with your full name, include your account number and current address.” Done.

Next: Maui County Department of Water Supply. No problem here, says DWS’s rep. In fact, she simply makes the change on the billing address from Robin Kaye to Ian Robin Kaye. And I ask her to include my wife’s name on the bill as well — for when she’ll have to renew her license. All done; maybe two minutes overall.

Last, I call Hawaiian Electric. Just let me say first that their automated phone system really, really needs to be much more customer friendly and far less cumbersome. There are menus, then sub menus, then sub-sub menus — you don’t get to a “press 1 to speak to a customer service representative” until what feels like a month.

Notarize a passport? Really?

Finally I get a warm body, and I’m told to hold while she asks her supervisor what’s involved in adding a name (Ian) to one’s billing name (Robin Kaye.) Ten minutes later, she comes back and says her supervisor is about to wrap up another call, so can I please wait a bit more? Another 10 minutes go by, she comes back and says that her supervisor may have to stay longer on that other call, so she’ll call me back. Half hour later she does, and says her supervisor told her they could add “Ian” to my billing name, but I need to send them a copy of my passport and “it must be notarized.”

Really? This makes no sense; how do you “notarize” a passport? I ask to speak with this supervisor. So the customer representative says she’ll transfer me and I spend five more minutes on hold; when someone answers it’s not only not the supervisor, but it’s someone in a completely different office.

Finally, after several I-call-them, they-call-me-back, I’m connected with the supervisor. She confirms: My passport must be notarized. She says this is to prove to HECO/MECO that Robin Kaye is really Ian Robin Kaye, notwithstanding this is precisely what it says on my passport. Which, Catch-22, is where this all started.

With no home mail delivery on Lanai residents must use a box at the local Post office. Robin Kaye

I’ve owned this property since 1978 and this house has been billed for the property’s electric use every month since; I know every one of HECO/ MECO’s Lanai employees; the president of MECO has been in my house for several long conversations about Lanai power issues; yet HECO/MECO wants me to pay a notary to attest that my passport is my passport?

In these days of identity security, surely one’s passport is golden, it even gets you through the TSA dragnets — without being notarized. What is it with HECO?

I think maybe this is payback. Several years ago we successfully stopped HECO and Castle and Cooke’s plan to dump 174 wind turbines on Lanai and send the power to Oahu. Perhaps the name “Robin Kaye” is taped above every customer service representative’s phone: “Do not in any way cooperate with this customer.”

Turns out, as my friend and MECO President Sharon Suzuki explained, the utility’s policy is that “we have to comply with the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act of 2003,” and she offered a solution that fit our small Lanai community: she would ask a MECO employee to come to my house, take a photo of my passport and send an email to HECO verifying that I am — who I say I am.

I thanked her for her kind offer, but decided to use my gas bill to renew my license. Lesson learned.

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