Are you getting what you pay for?

May 11, 2009 6:24:36 PM PDT
Over the last couple of years, we've all noticed the packaging of food products are shrinking - yet you're still paying the same price if not more. You know you're getting less, because the product packaging is smaller. But there's one product where the size of the packaging hasn't changed, and yet you're not getting as much.

With nice weather, comes the joy of firing up the grill. If your propane tank is empty, you probably exchange it for a full one at exchange sites. But you may be surprised to learn you're not getting a full propane tank back.

"Some of the tanks were different than one another," Cary resident Dean Bostic told Troubleshooter Diane Wilson after he and his 10-year-old son went to buy a refill recently.

"That's when we discovered the tanks that were coming in had 17 pounds but the tanks people were buying had only 15 pounds in them," he said.

When Eyewitness News visited several exchange sites throughout the Triangle, all the tanks we saw had just 15 pounds in them. While you're getting less propane, the tank size is still the same when it was designed to hold 20 pounds.

"I remember when ice cream was two quarts and now it's quart and a half. The difference is with ice cream you can tell it's gotten smaller, but with this they're selling you what everyone believes is a full tank but it's really only 3 quarters full," Bostic offered.

Instead of buying a tank filled with 15 pounds, which cost $21 at the exchange site, Bostic took his empty tank to Crossroads Exxon where they still fill the tanks.

"They filled it with 20lbs and I verified that the tank weighed 20 pounds more when finished than it did when I started and that was $20. So, it was less for 20 pounds than it was for 15 pounds at the exchange site," Bostic explained.

Bostic says taking his tank to a fill station may not be convenient, but will help him get his money's worth.

Blue Rhino is one of the propane suppliers for tanks around the Triangle. A representative told Eyewitness News that they just provide the propane in the tanks. They don't make the tanks and there's no easy way to change them all to make them smaller. He said while the tanks can hold 20 pounds, they made the switch to 17 pounds in 2002, and then within the last year, made the switch to 15 pounds.

He said it was a way to address the costs of the industry. He also said each retail location sets the price they sell refills for. Eyewitness News did find different prices at all exchange tank locations.

If you're going to go to a refill station, it's wise the make sure your tank is empty if they charge a set price. At Crossroads Exxon in Cary it's a set price to fill it, and you don't pay by the pound. Right now, the cost has actually gone down from what Bostic paid, it's now actually $16 at the Crossroads Exxon. Some refill stations do charge by the pound or gallon.

For more detailed information on propane tanks, head to: http://www.ncagr.gov/standard/LP/LPgasConcerns/index.htm


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