You are paying for the labor, mainly, not the propane. Gotta pay for the
machine, the clerk, the inspections, the insurance, etc. Like the price
of beer in kegs vs. cans- the cost of the content is close to trivial.
If refill stations charged by the pound, you'd get people coming n every
week to top off, 'just so we don't run out during the barbecue'. Lot of
clerk time and machine wear for very little money. A flat fee plus
weight would maybe make sense.
By that reasoning, every full serve gas station should charge you for a
fixed amount full tank, not the actual number of gallons they pump into
your car. Yet somehow they stay in business by charging you just for
the amount you actually receive...
A lot more people have cars than propane tanks, and there are a lot more
gas stations that propane fill stations. You do notice that other than
in NJ and Oregon?, full-serve gas stations have basically vanished, and
the few that remain charge a price premium? They charge you for the
labor, all right- 'X' cents per gallon.
I work in MA. Each town fire Marshall decides if self serve is allowed and
some do not have it. The full service stations are the same price as the
self serve in the next town. Damned if I'm going to pump it when I can get
it done for free.
With propane filling, all service is "full service" so the premium
difference vs. self serve is not a valid analogy, since we aren't
comparing full service with self service propane. The full service
pumps at a gas station (and there are plenty of them near me) charge the
same per unit amount regardless of the amount of fuel purchased. In
other words a customer purchasing 5 gallons of fuel isn't charged for a
full tank. Likewise the number of stations is not relevant, we are
discussing the practices at the stations themselves, not how many others
There is no reason why propane sales should need to charge a full tank
for a 1/4 tank fill, if propane dealers weren't out to gouge and cheat
their customers. We aren't talking bulk sales here, and charging by the
unit sold certainly adequately includes labor costs for other fuel sales.
The article cited already establishes the propane industry's (lack of)
integrity and business ethics by providing less product without
informing their customers. It's not surprising they freely engage in
less than above-board practices.
They do it because they can. It has been an accepted policy for many years.
Propane dealers are some of the worst on the planet. They have widely
varying rates depending on use, they won't fill the tanks of another
company, they rent tanks for years, they make if difficult to let you buy a
tank, and on and on.
Sounds like you live in a tough neighborhood, Jessica. The gas businesses
here are geared to make people happy, so they will return year after year.
Last trip in, I talked to them about installing a large tank for propane
because we are converting to propane stove. Maybe it's just my attitude,
but I have never had a problem with propane dealers, and I go out there when
they fill the cylinders and make sure I get a ticket for only what they put
in. A chimpanzee could read those simple gauges. If you're the trusting
type who just takes them in and does very little in the way of monitoring
them, then you get what you get.
Lots of liability associated with being a propane dealer. No dealers
around here will fill anyone else's non portable tank. If you want to
change suppliers you need to have them remove their tank and the new
supplier will place a tank and inspect your piping and equipment before
turning the gas on. The mom & pop guys aren't bad to deal with but
Suburban: http://www.suburbanpropane.com/ is over the top. They are
much more expensive than the other suppliers for fuel. Last year they
instituted a large small use fee "cooking rate" increase and high low
use prices without warning and then billed people $150 more when they
called to have the tank removed. My brothers neighbor worked for them
and he said they couldn't keep up with tank removals.
There's a dozen or so dealers around here and the one I use has been
consistently the most competitive on pricing, so I'm not too concerned. That
said, they definitely make it financially difficult to buy your own tank.
I pay about $75/year for tank rental on a 500 gal tank. If I wanted to buy my
own tank, it would cost me in the neighborhood of $1000 installed. With the cost
of money, that's close to 15 year break even. I haven't checked, but it wouldn't
surprise me if periodic teating of the tank is required. That's included in the
rental but would be my responsibility if I purchased.
When I went and priced a tank for running the kitchen stove, they said the
same thing. If they own it, they do all the testing and maintenance, and it
doesn't bump up from the $50 or $75 or whatever a month. If you own it, and
you got a problem, you pay it all.
There are plenty in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, for starters. Seen
some in South Dakota and Wisconsin too. NJ and OR exclusively have full
serve, with the exception of military bases, whose patrons are trusted
with handling gas pumps themselves.
On Sat, 23 May 2009 19:39:29 -0400, email@example.com wrote:
The U-Haul place I take my tank to definitely charges by the gallon,
with no minimum charge -- and according to their website, this is true
of all of their propane-selling locations nationwide.
That's a big downside to tank exchanges -- you have to run completely
empty to get the full value; I don't have a place to store an extra
20lb tank, so I'd rather top off at 1/4 tank than run out in the
middle of a barbeque.
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