Long-time readers may remember the time at the previous Cold House (a couple years back) when my heating-oil supplier called because he noticed I wasn’t using nearly as much oil as usual. He was genuinely concerned that my furnace was broken and I was freezing. That was nice. (His name, in fact, was Adam Nice. He’s a nice guy. If you need oil.)
In the same vein, but less nice, I recently received a “Dear Propane Gas Customer” letter. In it, my propane supplier, Fielding’s Oil & Propane Co., identified me as “a low usage customer” (with super-helpful further explanation: ” ‘Low usage’ means you use very little propane gas”). Mr. Fielding went on to say that because I use so very little petroleum, and because of “the increasing cost of propane gas”, as well as “steel prices”, he has “no choice” but to “implement a tank rental fee”, of $78.00 per year, per tank (we have two tanks). This comes to $158/year, which would represent a 40% increase in our heating costs (for nothing but having two big steel tanks sitting in the yard.)
Two alternatives were offered: (1) “If you buy your heating oil from us, then the rental fee would be waived.” or, (2) “You could use more propane. If you increase the propane usage, then the fee would be waived.”
Since we use no heating oil at all, I am tempted to agree to option (1), but somehow I think they will see through that ploy. As to (2), I have no idea what “more” propane means. I am not sure that a lawyer vetted this letter before it went out.
I can understand where they are coming from. When I moved here 2 years ago, before I was sure we’d have a wood stove in time for winter, I topped off the tanks, paying them about $300 in the process. But since then, I’ve probably burned only 3 or 4 gallons. The tanks are connected to two propane heaters (detached guest room, and cellar) which we virtually never use. But, I’ve liked knowing the option was there, just in case. (On the other hand, it makes me a bit uneasy knowing that we have enough propane on-site to blow the house to Jupiter). Anyway, while I’ve been sitting here not buying much more propane from him, I’m sure they have been up nights worrying about whether my tanks are doing okay, whether all the piping is safe and secure, etc. This has surely taken a toll on them, so I can see why he now needs to recoup monetarily.
So, I’m not sure what to do about this. “Can’t beat ’em, join ’em” and put in an actual propane heating system, like everyone else? Say “Eff you and your effing propane”, have him come pick up his tanks and the devil-gas they contain, and really truly commit to the wood forever? Other?