State swamped with requests for appliance rebate



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Posted on April 7, 2010 at 11:17 AM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 7 at 4:10 PM

The statewide appliance rebate program Wednesday proved to be more popular than expected.

The State Comptroller’s Office is handling the reservations for the rebate program.

According to the office, about 1,700 web hits are coming to the reservation website every second. Phone operators for the program are taking in 1,000 phone calls a minute; leaving some callers with an unnerving sound in their ears, ”“Beep, beep, beep. We're sorry all circuits are busy. Please try again later.”

The busy signal has been greeting callers since about 7 a.m. Wednesday morning when the rebate program began.

People across the state are trying to reserve state assistance for trading in their old appliances for energy efficient models.

When you visit the State Comptroller's website, big red words warn hopeful residents that the program is up and running but is swamped.

“It's not shut off or anything like that. It's still available. It's the fact that it's a heavy volume of people in terms of the online system and phone system trying to get in so the reservation is slower,” said R.J. DeSilva, Texas Comptroller’s Office.

The office expected a large response. DeSilva says it brought in extra hotline operators -- 450 in all -- to handle the large volume.

“When you look at the number of call-takers for example, 450, we got the rebate vendor to increase the number of call takers for Texas to 450 so that kind of gave us an indication of how heavy, heavier than expected the phone demand is,” said DeSilva.

The state also tested its online server and says it increased it as well for extra activity.

However, by 10:15 a.m., there were more than 19.5 million hits on the reservation website.

The state secured more than $23 million in federal funds for this program. Officials say there's money left, but it will likely take multiple attempts to make a reservation.

Updates are posted online at the Comptroller's Twitter account. It continues to list the latest updates on how much money is still available. As of 11:30 a.m. just 10 percent of the available funds had been claimed.

Once all of the funds are reserved the state says it will begin a waiting list.