Ashburn, Virginia

The new home I purchased 15 years ago uses propane for cooking, heating, and hot water because natural gas is not available here. Having never used propane before, I didn't understand the huge downside of having a propane company own your buried 1,000-gallon tank. Builders like this because it saves them the cost of outright purchase and installation of a tank, and most consumers (like me) don't know enough to care. The problem is that the home buyer is locked into buying propane ONLY from the company that owns the tank, under whatever price and terms they choose to set.

My original propane company was fine for the first year or so, until it was purchased by Amerigas. (Buying out smaller/cheaper local competitors appears to be a common pattern for Amerigas, because it gets them closer to monopoly control.)

That's when all the problems started: Running out of gas despite being on an auto-fill contract, billing issues, and hands-down the absolute worst customer service on the planet. But the real kicker has been the price gouging: I've consistently been charged WAY more than the going market rate for my area, per official data published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). It's really come to a head the last few years, with Amerigas charging me up to $2-3/gallon more than the average -- sometimes, that meant almost 2x the going rate! With that 1000 gallon tank, bills in the $2000-$3000 range every time they made deliveries are common -- payable in full within 30 days, of course. No one could believe that I was paying well over $12,000 a year just for propane! I called the local office several times to complain, and after heated arguments was occasionally successful in getting a credit that simply reduced the amount of the insane overcharge a bit. No apologies for overcharging; they act as if those kinds of pricing practices should just be accepted, and that they're doing me a huge favor to make ANY kind of adjustment -- I'm sure mostly just to make me go away.

I've inquired several times about purchasing the tank so I'd have the option of choosing among much lower-cost suppliers, and they stopped just short of laughing as they refused. One neighbor, similarly fed up with Amerigas' refusal to sell the tank, actually paid a contractor about $3000 to destroy much of his lawn, dig up the Amerigas tank, dump it at the curb, and replace it with a new one that he now owns. He said calling Amerigas to say that he was DONE with them and to come pick up their old tank littering the street was one of the most satisfying he'd ever made! I've considered doing the same, but the location of my tank would mean destroying far more of my lawn, not to mention massive damage to my in-ground sprinkler system in the process.

Amerigas refuses to renew my auto-fill contract (I suspect my complaining was a factor), so I now have to call with a credit card when I need a delivery. When I checked today, the tank gauge showed only 13%, and very cold weather is forecast. Their website showed business hours M-F from 8am to 5pm. I called at 4:35pm, but the call forwarded to Amerigas' national call center because the local office actually closes at 4:30. Nice job maintaining your web info, Amerigas! Anyway, I was told that it would take up to TEN business days for a delivery. With a 3-day holiday weekend coming up, plus another regular weekend, that meant up to 15 days! But they were happy to do an 'emergency delivery' for an additional $180 fee (as others have stated, Amerigas has more additional fees and surcharges than a bank).

That's all bad enough, but it's just typical Amerigas customer (dis)service. What pushed me to write, however, was the quoted price: $4.36/gallon! Including the trip fee, I'm paying $1052 (plus whatever taxes and other fees they can tack on) to get just 200 gallons delivered. Amazing, with petroleum prices now so low that they've triggered a huge decline in the stock market. The EIA website shows an average national retail propane price of $2.013, and for our local area it's $2.722. If you do the math, they charged me exactly 60% more than the average local price - it's pretty hard to believe that's pure coincidence?

If you find yourself having to deal with Amerigas, be very afraid and run away as fast as you can! And don't ever buy a house with a buried propane tank you don't own!

Product or Service Mentioned: Amerigas Gas Tank.

Reason of review: Problems with payment.

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