By Danielle Spadola
Have you ever been charged $6,000 for a water bill — or for 1 million gallons of water that you didn’t use? If so, the Asbury Park Press’s David Willis, J/MS 1989, is the guy to call.
In his bi-weekly consumer column, Press On Your Side, Willis addresses consumer issues from sky-high water bills to mundane matters like not receiving insurance money back on a new pair of glasses.
“You would be amazed at what kinds of problems people have that seem small, but for them it becomes all consuming,” he said.
The point of his column is to help people in Monmouth and Ocean Counties resolve their issues with companies, businesses and municipalities. Through his writing, he brings these issues to the attention of executives, officials, and managers to settle whatever the complaint is. He can help readers correct a mistake on their bill or get a pothole filled on their street.
Press On Your Side also helps computer users navigate the murky waters of scamming. Recently, Willis wrote about scam artists sending out notices with the subject line “funeral notification.” The emails appear to be from legitimate funeral homes.
“But instead of loving thoughts,” wrote Willis in his column, links send users “to a foreign Internet domain where malware, which can be used to steal your personal information, is downloaded into your computer.”
The thornier the situation, the better Willis likes it — case in point was when United Water Toms River stuck a customer with a $6,000 water bill for 1 million gallons of water he didn’t use.
“No one else would help him, so I pressed the company about the bill,” Willis recalled. After his call the company investigated and credited the customer’s account.
Willis said he can receive up to 30 calls per week, and some problems are beyond his ability to fix.
Before he graduated in 1989, Willis wrote for the Daily Targum, where he was associate news editor. Willis thoroughly enjoyed his time at Rutgers. When asked if working at the Daily Targum prepared him for a career in journalism, he said absolutely.
“It made me write every day,” he recalled. “The whole key to being a writer, especially for news, is to do a lot of it. I figured out what questions to ask. The Targum helped showcase my writing.”
At J/MS, Willis was also able to land an internship at the Star-Ledger, which was influential in his development as a reporter. When looking back on his time spent at Rutgers, Willis has a lot of fond memories.
“I liked being in the mix of things when covering stuff,” he noted. “Talking to students about what the issues were, covering the university, I really enjoyed that. I loved the camaraderie of The Targum. We were a good group of people.”
After J/MS Willis went on to become a business reporter at the Asbury Park Press. For 15 years he covered technology, community, utilities, energy and real estate.
Two years ago the editor asked Willis to become the new author of the bi-weekly consumer column. In addition to the column, Willis continues to write breaking consumer stories and still covers the utilities beat.
Among readers, he’s one of the most popular writers at the newspaper.