There’s a new Ally Bank ad on television which shows a man in a suit operating an ice cream stand.
A little red-haired kid sitting nearby asks the man, “Can I have some ice cream, please?”
“No, it’s just for new people,” says the suit.
Another kid comes bounding into the picture and the suit immediately gives him a chocolate ice cream cone.
“Yeah, but I’m new, too,” says the red-haired boy who didn’t get any.
“He’s new … er,” replies the suit.
Locally, there are a lot of propane customers who’ve been feeling like the little redhead kid, lately.
A reader sent me the following email this week:
“I am currently a Turner Propane customer and pay $3.29 per gallon at this moment, versus the midwinter price of $4.05 per gallon I paid last winter. Of course, if you have the means, you can pre-buy 1,000 gallons right now for $3.10/gallon cash or check or $3.15 with a credit card.
I decided to call Amerigas to see what they would offer a potential customer and found out that their startup plan would be to waive the tank fee of $75 per year for the first year. In addition, the first 100 gallons are free, the next month is priced at $1.99/gallon and the next year at $2.99/gallon. As an established customer of Amerigas, you would pay your $75 tank fee and could do a pre-buy of any amount at $2.99, but I’m not yet sure of the regular price.
This then prompted me to have my neighbor call Turner as a potential new customer to see what their offer would be and they said they would waive the $78 tank fee for the first year and charge $2.79 a gallon per year.”
*As a point of reference, I live in Swall Meadows and am an Eastern Sierra Propane customer. My current price is $2.69/gallon. The winter pre-buy price is $2.99/gallon.
Withholding my reader’s name, I then approached both Turner Propane and Amerigas looking for comment. This is what I got.
Turner Propane District Manager Jim Miller emphasized his company’s commitment to safety and service.
One of those services, for example, is digging out snow-covered tanks. Though this is technically the customer’s responsibility (for those who have their own individual tanks), Turner has never charged to do it. AmeriGas charges $15.
Miller also noted that Turner has spent $600,000 over the past few years automating its meters so customers will be billed based upon real reads as opposed to estimates.
Turner’s service, which Miller said includes more personnel on the ground in Mammoth, faster response times and thorough safety checks, is reflected in its prices, which he acknowledged as being slightly higher than AmeriGas.
AmeriGas’s local Sales and Service Manager Jeff Pahlow said AmeriGas requires no pre-buy minimum (Turner requires a 1,000 gallon minimum).
His regular customers are currently paying $2.90/gallon right now.
The deal for new customers outlined in the letter quoted above is still valid.
Pahlow acknowledged that the new customer incentives tend to create a game of “musical tanks.”
Sheet: Say someone left to get Turner’s new customer deal this year. Would you give them the new customer deal if they decided to return to AmeriGas next year?
Pahlow: Yes, provided their account was in good standing when they left.
“It’s a game [slashing prices to battle for the new customer] that gets ridiculous,” said Miller. “You don’t want a new customer bouncing back and forth every year,” he added. It creates a lot of busywork.
Both Pahlow and Miller say it’s worth a customer’s time to consult with his/her existing provider first before making a switch. “If we find our pricing’s out of line, we’ll match [what’s out there],” said Pahlow.
Switching providers may also subject one to “restock” fees. What this essentially means is that your existing company may charge you to pump the gas out of the tank you are removing.
Regarding the purge
Sitting through Wednesday’s Council meeting was painfully uncomfortable. Town Manager Rob Clark and Assistant Manager Karen Johnston were sitting next to each other at the Staff table, but Clark’s chair was turned to the right facing the Council dais and he had his left hand to the side of his head to block his peripheral view.
Johnston’s chair faced straight ahead. Her face was blank.
There was no one in the chair next to hers. Finance Director Brad Koehn had already stormed out of the room upon learning his position had been eliminated.
None of them could quite believe it had come to this. None could quite believe that a Council has finally emerged which is willing to deliver some unpleasant news.
One can only wonder how long Clark will last. A Town Manager evaluation is reportedly scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 8. The date is significant because it falls 92 days from the date of the last election. Why is that important? Because Council is prohibited from removing a Town Manager until 90 days after an election.
To the very end, there was an air of disbelief surrounding the staff cuts. “Can they [Council] really do this?” The agenda bill submitted by Koehn and Clark reflected a lack of comprehension of the gravity of their respective situations. It was yet another case of Staff concocting a slew of mathematical band-aids all designed to jigger the numbers and convince Council to let the status quo remain in place for another year.
Time’s up. The misdirection’s up. The abacus needs to make way for Quickbooks.
Staff had a chance to accept another year of furlough days in May. It declined. When the positions on the chopping block were made known to Staff, those not on the chopping block had no incentive to revisit the furlough issue. The unions refused to compromise. So much for solidarity.