Monday, January 5, 2009

The Propane War--or why I will never again be doing business with Ballard Gas Service

In retrospect, I should have seen this coming, maybe. Back last April, I checked the gauge on my propane tank and saw it was at 20%. That did not seem right as it had been 20% a month before, so I took a rock and whanged the gauge and it fell to nearly 0%. I called Ballard Gas and said I needed propane the next time they were up my way. The woman on the phone asked me the percentage in my tank and I replied “Almost down to zero.” She then went into a long speech about how I would have to have my system checked since it was zero and it would cost $30 and I had to be home at the time. I said it was not zero, close but not there and that I still had propane. She just rolled on, not listening, busy reading her script. I just gave it up & figured the driver and I could get the right thing done. In a few days, the propane truck arrived and the driver got ready to do a check. He looked at the gauge and said he could not do a check as it was not zero. I said that I knew that but the woman on the phone would not listen to me. He rolled his eyes and gave me the propane. I have used Ballard Gas since 1983 and this was the first time I have ever had any trouble with them; this was someone new to me in the office.

That 100 gallons lasted well, and in late November it was only down half way to 10%. I called on December 1 to find out the delivery date so I could have the gate unlocked, which I told the gal on the phone. I was told December 11, but no propane arrived that day. I called on the 12th and was told that I was wrong and the delivery was the 18th. Well, ok. That day also came and went with no propane. I called on Friday 19th to say I needed to know the new delivery date so the gate could be unlocked (my third time of saying the same thing). The woman put me on hold and was gone a long time, coming back to tell me she did not know and had to talk with a driver. I was thinking that this was poor office procedure, that the people answering the phone did not know any schedules. She promised to call me back. That never happened.

On Dec. 22, a Monday, I called again to say the same stuff again and again got the “have to talk to a driver” spiel. What-the-hey is going on with this place, I am now really wondering. No call back and no propane. I call again on Tuesday morning to be told that someone made a special trip out to give me propane but the gate was locked. After a stunned moment, I blurted out “Of course the gate was locked, no one told me anyone was coming!” I am now really thinking that things have changed for the worse, with a lack of communication in the office and with customers. The woman then went into her script reading about how she had to talk with the drivers before she could tell me about delivery. I allowed myself to dump on her at this point, telling her that there were some serious problems going on in the company, it was looking like. I then told her the gate would be unlocked that day. No propane.

The next morning I simply called and said the gate would be unlocked again. No propane. That afternoon, I called and wished her a happy Christmas as mine would be cold since I did not now have enough propane to run my furnace and it was a week past the delivery date. On Friday, I did not bother to call. No propane (such a surprise). I wrote a letter, mailed it Saturday. On Wednesday, two weeks after the scheduled delivery date, I got a call saying the delivery would be on that day. No mention of my letter, no apology, nothing. I laughed and said that it was too little and too late and I was done with Ballard Gas forever.

I am able to be done with them because my handyman, Joe, built the new system shown in the photo. This is two portable tanks hooked into a dual valve. I have a third tank so that I can take two at a time in for refills. No more dependence on messed-up companies. If I run out now, it is my own fault and I happily take that responsibility. Too bad about Ballard Gas though, as they used to be good. Since this has happened, I have found other people who have left their service due to problems with the office.

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