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Letter to my Oil company

I went over the number of gallons I pre-paid for my heating oil this year. In fact this is the highest amount of oil I've used in the past 5 years. Every single year it has gone down as I've "learned" the house more. Along with the bill from the oil company, I sent them this letter:

Included you will find a check for XXXX for the oil delivery that occurred on April 8th, 2009.

I have to say I was very surprised to find out that I had used up the pre-pay amount, so I reviewed my records. This is my highest oil usage in 5 heating seasons, and I am 118 gallons over the average of the last 3 years. This year's calculations do not yet accommodate for a 'final' delivery that has traditionally happened in the end of May or beginning of June.

During our yearly cleaning / inspection at the beginning of the season, I had your technician turn down the heat on my hot water heater, which I expected would help limit my usage.

All this makes me wonder if the first fill up (11/3/08) accidentally went into my neighbor's tank. The fill location is labeled left side; however there is no fill valve on the left side of my house. I attached a copy of said receipt for your own amusement.

The overrun hurts extra since I locked the price in at what turned out to be an obscenely high amount, and I am currently not generating any income.

If there is anything you can do on your end, or you have any thoughts to share on the matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.

What would the oil company do next?

A stellar customer service move would be to credit my account for the initial fill up. It would make me a customer for life.

An okay customer service move would be to not charge me for the overrun. They'd say things like "It was ~6 months ago; we may have screwed up, but don't know. You should have been watching the tank to be sure it was full every time you got a fill-up." This is kind of like splitting the difference. If they do this, there is a ~75% chance I'd stay w/ them as a customer.

A realistic business decision would be to say "It's way to late to complain about something that may have happened 6 months ago. We're sorry, but tough luck." I'd shrug my shoulders and say "whatcha gonna do." At this point, there is a 50% chance I'd stay as a customer. Could something else have cause the discrepancy?

A horrible customer service response would be to cash my check and not contact me at all. This wouldn't surprise me. 25% chance I'd stay with them for the next heating season.

Last time I had a complaint with a different oil company, the person yelled at me on the phone saying everything was my fault. I not only stopped being a customer, I filed a complaint to the BBB.

I wish I knew more. I wish I knew that they did something incorrectly. I wish I caught the mistake--if there was one--back in November.

Comments (Comment Moderation is enabled. Your comment will not appear until approved.)
David's Gravatar What percentage of oil consumption does 118 gallons represent? This winter has been significantly colder than the past 5 years, which would necessitate more usage.
# Posted By David | 4/17/09 4:31 PM
Jeffry Houser's Gravatar 118 gallons would be 13% over my estimated usage.

Was this winter really colder?
# Posted By Jeffry Houser | 4/17/09 4:45 PM
David's Gravatar Maybe it's my imagination, but this winter seemed to have been both colder and longer than usual. My car windows were frosted this morning, which is unusual for mid April. Thermodynamics is not my forte, but I do remember that heat transfer is proportional to temperature difference. If my theory is correct, the oil company should be able to spout temp vs. oil usage statistics supporting the 13 % overrun. I am interested in their response.
# Posted By David | 4/17/09 5:05 PM
Jeffry Houser's Gravatar Maybe you're right. Maybe I'm just bitter because I have to spend more money at at a time where I don't have it. :-)

But, I am hugely surprised about how much high the usage is. Higher than every season except my first one in the house.
# Posted By Jeffry Houser | 4/17/09 7:32 PM
CEB's Gravatar I wonder if your oil company is the same one that I have. The Fuel Manager yelled at me today too - very poor customer service training and pure arrogance.
Can you suggest aining. I prepaid for my oil and bought the amount of gallons that the oil company suggested - better to buy more and and not end up in the cold. I too was charge an obscene amount for oil this year and they offered to do nothing for the consuer at all. Now the real kicker is today I called them as my contract ended 4/30. I asked for a refund of $$$$$ I did not use. They said "Sure" after we apply the penalty fee. I was shocked and was told since I didn't use the amount I contracted for that I would be penalized for each gallon I did not use so thats 300 gallons times $2 for a whopping $600 penalty.Is this fair?? They NEVER did this in the past and only decided to do it this year - t hey told me it's in the contract stating that we "MAY" Key word "May" apply penalty fees on unused gallons. What can I do about this - they REFUSE to refund all my money!!!!!
# Posted By CEB | 5/1/09 10:39 PM
Jeffry Houser's Gravatar CEB,

I'm not sure what you can do about it. Other than throwing a big fit and/or talking to a lawyer. I've never signed a prepay contract that didn't offer a full refund for unused gallons or at least apply it to the next year's oil.

David,
According to the oil company if it went in my neighbors tank, I would have run out at some point. The have "K-factor" calculations. They also told me--as you suspected--that this year had the most "Degree days" of the previous two. They offered to have me come by the office to show me their statistics.

But, I think I'm just moving on, their scenario seems likely enough to me.
# Posted By Jeffry Houser | 5/1/09 11:32 PM
Steve's Gravatar I'm hoping for the "it was a mistake" option. Sound plausible considering the automated fashion in which oil deliveries take place, as well as the note on the receipt. You should push them on this.
# Posted By Steve | 6/5/09 6:52 PM
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