Yea, verily! I have kicked another one of my corporate overlords to the curb! Last year, I ushered Wells Fargo to the door after their abysmal customer service, and their ridiculous service charges were bleeding my checking account dry.
The way these things go, the tank was owned not by me, but by Amerigas. It was installed on my property, but Amerigas had sole rights to service the tank. That meant that Amerigas had an actual monopoly on my propane purchases.
However, I was legally unable to purchase from competitors, because Amerigas owned the tank. I was stuck with Amerigas!
Seeing this, about five years ago, I asked Amerigas to allow me to purchase my tank. They initially said, "OK," but because I was a "good customer", they offered to drop my price for propane to below market for the rest of the year, to which I happily agreed.
This little game went on every year for three years. I would happily call and complain, request to buy my tank, and they would lower my price to below market. As long as I was paying below market, I figured, "Heck, I'm getting a good deal, so why switch?"
Then a couple years ago, they got nasty. Amerigas said they were no longer allowing tank purchases, and if I wanted to remove my tank, I would have to pay heavy surcharges to close my account, would have to hire a third-party company to remove the tank myself (to which NO third-party company would agree, because since I don't own the tank, they can't take on the liability of touching an Amerigas tank), and Amerigas would actually charge me to recover the remaining propane in my tank, propane that was bought and paid for by me. I scoffed; I gnashed my teeth; and I swore, but there was little else I could do but eat the expensive propane costs for another year, continuing on as an Amerigas customer.
Finally, this year, I talked with a neighbor who was successful in his kicking Amerigas to the curb. I knew it could be done! Using his advice, I called Amerigas and informed them that I would like to purchase my tank, to which they responded, "We don't do purchases." To which I responded, "Fine. Then we will abandon it in place. I will fill it with sand or you can come and get it, and we will take on a new supplier." To which they responded, "Oh, well, it looks like we can sell it to you, for a price of $750." (Which is quite reasonable, actually.) I placed a lock on the tank (so they wouldn't fill it), and marked it as "DO NOT FILL." The last thing I needed them doing was coming out to fill me up with 500 gallons of expensive propane as I'm trying to be rid of them.
After a couple of weeks, Amerigas finally generated an invoice for the tank, which I promptly paid. Then I had to wait for my bill of sale to arrive. It was this document that would allow me to prove ownership of my tank and shop my propane throughout town. But the bill of sale wouldn't come. The check had cleared, but no bill of sale. After two more weeks, I finally called Amerigas and they apologetically said they'd send the bill of sale right away.
Finally, with bill of sale in hand, I owned the tank. Hooray!! I can call any propane company for service, and I can shop around for the best prices. Isn't that how the free market is supposed to work?
I just got off the phone with Valley Energy, and they are offering propane today at $2.659/gal. This sure beats Amerigas's Amerilock price of $3.49/gal! So I pre-purchased nearly 1,000 gallons for this coming winter. For our normal winter usage, this will be a savings of $831 for this year alone!!