Three bids…really? The reality behind propane price shopping.
Home heating can be a quirky industry, especially where propane is the energy of choice. Every supplier markets products and services differently and “hidden costs” abound. For example, many firms are charging delivery fees and have been for years. Additionally, “fee creep” is surfacing in a number of ways — regulatory fees, enrollment fees, statement fees, gas recovery fees, haz-mat fees, DOT tank replacement fees…the list goes on and on. Consequently, homeowners must be sure they are comparing “apples with apples” when deciding on a propane program for next winter.
The tried and true practice of collecting three bids for propane pricing, then using the low bid to select a supplier no longer makes much sense. The three-bid rule only appears to work because it assumes all things equal; the price per gallon is all you pay. In other words, the premise is, three bidders have quoted you a per gallon price and that is all you need to know.
In reality, however, such assumptions are risky and rarely accurate. While Viking Propane charges no delivery fees whatsoever, many competitors participate in “fee creep” as a matter of course. As a result, the three bids are not consumer-friendly, and while differences may or may not be subtle, they prove bid comparison more complicated than it seems on the surface.
The only clear way to make such a comparison is to calculate the number of deliveries to your home the previous year times all the fees; you may have to ask each company for a “run down.” That dollar figure must then be added to the total projected gallons for next year at the quoted price. Finally, the customer must divide that total by the projected number of gallons to be used next season. That answer yields an “actual” cost per gallon.
Even after your intelligent comparison is complete, the three-bid rule has a way of reducing each propane company to a number. However, the most relevant factors for customer satisfaction may be the supplier’s level and quality of service, experience, personality, record of success, and BBB rating. For this reason, Viking Propane is disappointed in knowing they may be evaluated only in terms of cost, rather than whether they are the best value for the customer.
Viking Propane tempers such disappointment with a re-doubling of efforts to involve all our customers in a personal energy need assessment and to discuss the flexible aspects of propane, its safety and a review of our pricing programs to yield the final projected cost for the heating season. Such discussions always build trust and enable honest communication about actual costs and how a customer may best be served. They also tend to remove assumptions and misleading comparisons while helping the customer see the possibility of annual fuel savings. As always, Viking’s goal is not merely to meet customer expectations, but to exceed them in every way possible. Please give us a call at 483-3446 to let us know how we may help.
From our family to yours,
Viking Propane Company
“When you need us, we’re there.”