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Buying Propane Shouldn’t Be So Hard

All I wanted was 10 gallons of propane. I don’t think it is an unreasonable request. I didn’t want it for free. I was willing to trade cash or credit. A typical American swap.

I guess my mistake was going to Lowe’s Home Center store. I had never bought propane at Lowe’s before except when I bought my son’s grill. When I buy propane I usually get my tanks filled but sometimes I do the Blue Rhino trade in thing. If you are not aware of this program, a customer brings his tank to a store like WalMart or Lowe’s and trades in an empty tank and you get a full tank in return. Or you can buy a tank already filled. The trade in program has a cost very close or often cheaper than getting a tank filled at a place that has a propane fill station. I used to always get my tanks filled but the place I go now charges for a full tank whether your tank was empty or not. Basically charging a customer for more propane then what they received.

So, since I was going to Lowe’s I decided why not bring my two empty tanks and trade them in for full ones.

two propane tanks

The two tanks I was exchanging

I went in the store and picked up a pull string for my small, gas, push mower I am giving my son T.J. It was $3.88. I went up to pay and told the cashier I also needed to exchange two tanks. She asked me if I was exchanging the tanks. I said yes. She then asked me again if I was exchanging two tanks. Again I replied yes. She got out a little laminated card with a couple of bar codes on it and yes, you guessed it, she asked me again if I was exchanging the tanks. I gain, for the third time, said yes.

She scanned the card and told me I owed her 106 dollars and some change. Since I bought an item for $3.88 and was exchanging two tanks at what I thought was $17.82.

Lowe's propane exchange

The price Lowe’s has posted on their tank exchange station.

I did some quick math and came up with an estimated price of $40. I told her I think that $106 is too high. She said, “You said you wanted to exchange the tanks.”. I again, now four times, said yes I do. She looked befuddled and asked me, “Do you want to exchange the tanks?” Now five times, I said yes, but I qualified it with but not for $106.

She said “Oh, you want to exchange the tanks.” I replied, now six times, yes.

She punched some buttons then rescanned her little card and said I owed her 19 dollars and some change. A number I still can’t figure out how she got to, because, remember, I also have an item costing about 4 bucks.

Now at this point I was pretty tempted to give her the requested amount, pickup my full tanks and leave but I try to be honest. Also l was afraid I would get to the propane station and they would check the receipt, see I only paid for one tank and send me back into the same cashier. A threat that made me say, “I think that isn’t enough.”

She said, and I am not kidding one bit, “You said you wanted to exchange the tanks.” For a seventh time I replied in the affirmative. She silently, with her best Mr. Magoo impression, scanned the card again and proudly announced $44.22.

Now I am pretty good at math and I knew right away this was a couple bucks higher than the posted price, I saw outside, but at this point I might have paid the first price of $106 to get away from this human clump of stupidity.

So I swiped my card in the machine, signed the pad and asked will someone be outside to exchange the tanks. She said, “yes” with an agitated tone. Apparently, me wanting to pay a price close to correct was a bother to her.

I went to my van, got out my empty tanks and went to the Blue Rhino station to wait to get my tanks exchanged.

wrong price charged at lowes

Notice the amount compared to the amount they have posted in the picture above. The discount of a dollar was for using my Lowe’s credit card.

And I waited, then waited, and I waited some more.

blue rhino lowes propane

While I waited I took pictures.

I thought to myself, I am not going back in the store. So being resourceful I looked up the number on my phone and called them. I told them I was outside waiting for someone at the propane tanks. They said they would send someone right out and they did.

Now i know why the place down the street can charge customers for propane they don’t receive.

Because it’s better to go there, at any price, than to buy propane at Lowe’s.

A lesson I will never forget.

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