Sunday afternoon bill-paying time involved categorizing stacks into utilities, medical bills, loans and miscellaneous. I slit open the envelopes and, a little cautiously, peering inside.

Sometimes I’m shocked at the amount beside the dollar sign but most of the time I know what to expect.

When I unfolded the propane bill, I felt shock and the floor falling out from under me. The total amount due? $1,600.04. I showed it to Jack. He asked what we paid last time. It was a June bill for $697.92.

The per gallon rate increased from $1.60 to $4.63 in less than six months.

With the price of auto fuel now at less than $3, justify to me how a propane company charges that much? We figured someone must have made a calculation error.

Jack learned when he called the company Monday morning that no error had occurred. Instead, our “contract” ran out so we were punished with an open rate. What contract? When were we notified? We’ve been with the same company for more than a decade without a contract.

I’m not identifying this company but cautioning you to look at the rate per gallon you are being billed before you pay.

With that “heated” phone call Jack made, the per gallon rate dropped to $1.99, the “community code” rate, he was told.

What a racket these propane companies enjoy — a huge profit if we had paid such a ridiculous rate.

Much like with car dealers, everything is negotiable. But I hate to think of senior citizens on a fixed income and people on low income getting bills like that and trying to negotiate. It makes my blood boil.

Just on principle, we’re considering changing our propane company. Please read your bill carefully before you write that check.

Becky Clark, Editor


  1. Propane is an unregulated business. Oh yes, “we have too much regulation”! The companies can charge what they want when they want. A large percentage of their customers live in rural areas and have little choice as to providers or energy alternatives. What to do? At least in Idyllwild you can switch providers. Alternatively, buy the publicly traded stock in Suburban Propane. It has a nice 14% dividend!