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Bayfield-area residents left in cold as AmeriGas fails to fill propane tanks

Company representative unsure what might be causing delivery delays in La Plata County
Bayfield-area customers say AmeriGas has been slow or nonresponsive in refilling or servicing propane tanks. The company said delivery drivers might having troubles accessing tanks in rural areas. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

All David McMillan wanted was his AmeriGas propane tank filled. It was the middle of December, and he put in an order to the propane company before he and his wife returned from vacation.

“We had an expedited delivery that we put in Dec. 13,” McMillan said. “When we returned to the country on Jan. 4, we still hadn’t received the delivery. We called and called them. I can’t tell you how many times between Jan. 4 and Jan. 21. They kept promising that we’d get a delivery either within an hour or within 24 hours, but no one came.”

McMillan’s final calls to AmeriGas came Jan. 21 to tell the company his propane tank was completely empty.

“They didn’t commit to a time frame the last couple of calls, but they did say that it would be an emergency delivery for which we’d have to pay more,” he said. “I mean, we were out of propane! We haven’t had gas heat in the house for 12 days. We’ve had a wood-burning stove going that heats one room in the house. We were huddled around that stove. We were freezing, and I bet there are other people out there that are in the same boat we were.”

Once McMillan was told by AmeriGas that he would have to pay more money for a tank refill he had requested for over a month, he decided to cut ties with the company.

“We are no longer an AmeriGas customer,” he said. “We canceled our service two days ago. We switched to Basin Coop and got our tank filled right away. My wife and I could have popped open a bottle of Champagne, we were so happy.”

Bayfield resident Tica Clark had a similar experience with AmeriGas, which she says refused to come out to her property and fix a leaky tank.

“For 12 years, we were a client,” she said during an interview conducted on Nextdoor. “For 12 years, they never came to service the tanks. One very snowy February, there was a leak in the tank causing my tanks to empty, and they wanted to charge me $2,000 to refill my tanks at the winter prices.”

Like McMillan, Clark eventually switched to Basin Coop after having to pay the $2,000 to refill the tank.

“They left me cold without heat for some time and kept telling me the issue was in the house, and I must have a leak in there,” she said. “Finally, days later, they sent someone out who finally admitted that it was a leak in the tank.”

Several Bayfield-area residents have left complaints about AmeriGas on Google Review, Yelp, Better Business Bureau and Nextdoor websites, citing the company’s failure to fill their tanks and/or charging them exorbitant prices to fill the tanks when they become empty.

Bayfield resident Francisco Carpio Gonzales recently complained on Google Review that he could not get his tank filled for almost a month, and another resident with the user name L L reported having to wait 12 days to get a tank filled. A resident named Ben Cross said he could not get someone to fill his tank “for over a week and a half. They messed our accounts up multiple times with no help.”

Several other messages posted on various platforms recount similar stories.

AmeriGas is a Pennsylvania-based company that boasted the largest propane distribution by gallon in 2022, according to LPGas magazine. The company serves customers across the United States, with at least 1,600 outlets in 50 states.

Brilynn Johnson, a spokeswoman for AmeriGas, said she does not know why customers in the Bayfield area have had difficulty with tank refills.

“I don’t think that there is a product shortage in Colorado, at least not that I’ve heard of,” she said. “So that’s good news. If it was a hot spot, I would be fully aware of it. It’s just not a state that I have had any issues with.”

Johnson said one possible reason AmeriGas might be unable to fill tanks in the La Plata County area is the inability to access the tank.

“Sometimes, people have something that is blocking the tank, and our delivery guys can’t get to it,” she said. “Usually, we send them notices to remove whatever is around the tank, like snow, and clear a path, so our guys can get to them.”

McMillan, Clark and other customers who have complained online say they were never told why AmeriGas was not coming out to fill or service their tanks.

“They did not give us any reason,” McMillan said. “There was no reason why they weren’t filling up our tank. Every time we called, we were promised, but we didn't get service. They didn’t deliver, and they had no explanation as to why. We never were told if there was a propane shortage, or if there was an equipment shortage or if there was a malfunction. It was just this promise of emergency delivery within 24 hours and then nothing.”

A common complaint made by McMillan and others is the difficulty in reaching AmeriGas’ customer service. McMillan said he was unable to find any local AmeriGas representative and was sent to a call center in the Philippines every time he called the company’s Bayfield phone number.

“I’ve called about seven different numbers, but I got to the same call center every time, no matter what number they gave me,” McMillan said. “I was sent to the sales department. I was sent to the technical resolution department. I was sent to whatever department with the same set of gatekeepers. It was always the same call center. My wife was on hold for 54 minutes last night waiting for a supervisor. We finally got a supervisor once, which is just one level above the call center operators. As soon as I explained what I was trying to do, he bumped me back down to the 1-800 number.”

Johnson said she planned to further investigate potential issues in the Bayfield area. She also promised extended hours of service for AmeriGas drivers, which comes on the heels of the U.S. Department of Transportation issuing an emergency declaration Jan. 16 over delayed propane deliveries in several states, temporarily allowing drivers to get caught up.

“DOT (Department of Transportation) basically has a guideline that as a driver transporting product, you can only work so many hours,” she said. “There was a federal waiver that allows us to be able to grant the ability to extend hours. We have extended to working seven days a week.”

As for the multitude of complaints by local AmeriGas customers about a lack of local representation and phone calls being sent to other countries, Johnson said, “As our company has grown, there has been a need to extend our customer service operations overseas.”

“Due to colder than normal temperatures saturating a good part of the country, we have seen some delivery delays,” AmeriGas said in an official statement. “Our teams are working seven days a week to ensure our customers have full tanks and warm homes. We are taking steps to speed up deliveries, as roads are cleared, by bringing in drivers from other areas. As we work quickly to deliver propane to our customers, we must also prioritize the safety of our drivers, customers, and communities.”

McMillan is just glad to have his situation fixed.

“We survived,” he said. “It was inconvenient. It was uncomfortable. I don’t mind sleeping in 45-degree weather, but our bedroom was 30-something degrees. We were probably pretty close to freezing. I’m just wondering how many people were in the same position as us, only worse.”

molsen@durangoherald.com



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