Friday, May 29, 2009

Grill Gas Scam

You may have missed a small item in the news the other day. It didn’t make the front page, but if you have the kind of gas grill that uses propane from a small tank, you should know about this.
There’s been a trend for the past year or so to reduce the amount of stuff we’re getting in our containers at the supermarket, while keeping the price the same as if we were getting the “usual” amount.

Breakfast cereal and ice cream are two prime examples. The manufacturers have taken the “standard” size of the cereal box down a notch or two, while charging the same price. Often, it’s called “new value size” or something like that, with marketing language telling us they’re “giving us what we asked for!”. In some cases, they’ve made the cereal box a different shape - taller but thinner - and putting less cereal in it.

It’s pretty hard to fudge stuff like a gallon of milk. So far, it’s still 128 ounces. They’ve changed the shape of the container in many places, making it square and easy to stack, but I haven’t heard any reports of “new value size” milk cartons containing 100 ounces, or whatever.

But a lot of the ice cream folks have done it. What used to be a “standard” half-gallon container of ice cream is now more like 50 ounces than 64 ounces. And don’t even get me started on the “fun size” candy bars, where it takes about three of them to get the same amount of candy bar that I got for a nickel when I was a kid.

Now it’s hit the propane gas market. The small news item said many propane tank exchange outfits were now filling their tanks with less propane, but charging the same price. This, they say, is necessary to keep the price the same to the consumer in light of rising propane prices, or some such hogwash. The typical tank weighs about 17 pounds empty, and a “refill” should weigh 37 pounds. In other words, you’re used to paying for 20 pounds of propane.

The article said a lot of places were now putting in 15 to 17 pounds, instead of the 20 we’re used to getting. You wouldn’t know this if you’re used to just exchanging your tank at the convenience store. They’re obviously not going to call your attention to it, and may not even be aware of it!

My wife is planning a rib-fest on the grill tomorrow, so yesterday I took our almost-empty propane tank with me while running errands, and went to Mounds and had them re-fill the tank, rather than stopping at the gas station to exchange it. The young man who filled the tank for me set his scale at 37 pounds and filled to that weight and just a tad more. He said I had a few ounces left in the tank, and he wanted to make sure I got my money’s worth.

At the cash register, they charged me for 20 pounds of propane…and I got it. And a bit more, I think. It was well worth the extra three minutes, or however long it took, to make sure I got a “full” refill.

I told my wife we can put the money we “saved” on propane towards more ribs at the butcher shop tomorrow. Can’t have too many leftover ribs, can you?


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