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Pathetic Propane Portions

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Propane is Awesome!

Propane is Awesome!

I hope you had a good Memorial Day weekend. For me that often means a time to head over to Grill Maestro for some grilling tips. This weekend, I noticed an interesting an interesting article Propane suppliers quietly reduce size of refills. In short, raising prices of last year caused propane makers to put less propane in each tank. This allows them to keep the same price and not lose customers for rising prices.

It is reminiscent of the incredible shrinking yogurt that a few have written about. My wife is still upset about the yogurt switch from 8oz to 6oz. For her that difference is significant enough to not buy it any more. With a piece of fruit, it was a small meal, but now it's barely just a snack. When the economy gets better, they'll no doubt put out the banner of 33% more free. Ever notice how products can continually offer such great promotions? If they didn't shrink the size when you weren't looking, you'd be bringing home a keg of ketchup.

The shrinking propane is different than shrinking yogurt. While the yogurt switch is tricky, the amount of the product you are getting is clearly labeled on the container. The propane tank is the same size regardless of how much propane is actually inside of it. They could fill it with 5 pounds of propane or 100 pounds and I wouldn't know the difference until I picked it up. Unlike other industries, if I don't like how much Amerigas or Blue Rhino is giving me, I can't easily choose to opt for another company. In my area, no one refills liquid generic propane tanks - it's always an exchange system. Once you pick an exchange system, you are more or less stuck with it unless you want to pay the upfront costs for a new tank.

I often can forgive being wronged, but don't mess with me when it comes to grilling and money. What do you say? Is it wrong for propane companies to pull the shrinking yogurt since their product's container size is fixed? Or is it fair for them to use the same tactics that the other companies use?

Photo Credit: Whitewolf Productions

Last updated on August 1, 2011.

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10 Responses to “Pathetic Propane Portions”

  1. Yikes, that’s pretty sneaky.

    (You proably couldn’t put 100 pounds of propane in the tank, though – I suspect that the tank would go KABLOOEY first)

    I ranted about this sort of thing a while back ( http://www.observingcasually.com/give-me-back-my-food/ ) and I realized this morning that the snack size Mounds bars are thinner than they had been.

    Ugh. Just raise the price and keep the portions the same.

  2. Cos says:

    yeah, this seems wrong. i’ve always wondered why these exchange systems don’t do the same sort of thing as the butcher: visually, “that” pack of steaks is the same as the others. it’s packaged using the same styrofoam tray, etc. but then it’s weighed, priced and tagged.

    altho i already know why they don’t do it, too much work. but if you think about it, maybe some bottles have 3.75 in them, some have 4.90, all priced by the unit. same bottle, different prices. people trying to save a buck would maybe opt for a lesser filled bottle.

    again, too much work. the exchange system works on a much more simple property: bottle in/bottle out.

  3. Zyzzyx says:

    “In my area, no one refills liquid generic propane tanks – it’s always an exchange system. ”

    And just what do folks with RVs do? Trailer or motorhome. Many of those use tanks larger than your standard grill-sized tank, I seriously doubt they pull them off for exchange every time, especially with the far more solid mounting setups.

    I’d check with any area RV-type shops or dealers, ask them about where to get propane refills.

    That’s a bummer, as here probably 20% of the gas stations have a propane tank and filling station. Nice and easy to deal with.

  4. Darin says:

    UHAUL fills propane in a lot of locations. Check their site to see if they have a filling station near you.

    I have used them for a couple of years. The other nice thing is that you don’t have to wait until your tank is completely empty like with the exchange places.

  5. Jeremy says:

    Interesting article. I actually think I got an under filled tank this past weekend. I didn’t exchange it but had it filled, but two things sort of caught my attention. First, the person who was filling it seemed to have very little knowledge. Second, when I picked up the tank I thought it felt a few pounds lighter than usual. I didn’t think much of it since I don’t carry around full tanks that often, but in the back of my mind I thought something didn’t feel quite right.

    They at least used a scale for filling it, but I wonder if they knocked it down a few pounds to make it appear full a little early? I used to fill propane back in high school, but back then a lot of tanks still didn’t have the OPD valves so it was very important to weigh each tank individually and set the scale each time. I forget how much a typical full tank would usually weigh on a scale so I can’t say with certainty they deliberately under filled. But I’m assuming the scale was set a few pounds light, maybe even by accident, and the lady filling it just took for granted it was full.

  6. jay says:

    I’ve just gotten bitten by the under filled propane tank. I broke out my grill about a month and a half ago. Exchanged my tank which usually lasts about half the summer at the rate at which I use it. This past week the tank was empty!

    For me I grill late at night when I get home from work and the propane store is closed. Even if the store was still open the closest place that sells propane in the city is like 45 minnutes away with traffic. Awesome. The PIA of replacing the tank is certainly worth paying more to get the standard amount.

  7. jim says:

    Yet another sneaky way companies are shrinking portions, kinda jerky of them… but I suppose most people just don’t notice.

  8. Shadox says:

    This whole thing could be totally resolved by forcing companies to write in 12 point font, in red letters, on the product every time they reduce the size of the product. God knows they are diligent about advertising whenever they increase the size.

  9. Andrea says:

    I noticed that too … but then I only exchange tanks now and then. But I burn a *lot* of propane for my propane/oxy torch; what I do is go to the U-Haul down the street that refills (not exchanges) tanks. It costs me only the cost of the propane–$12 for a *full* tank versus $21 for exchange for only 3/4 the propane.

    If you do that, make bloody sure you have your tanks inspected regularly and that the valves and other parts are in good working order. Having your tank explode is not remotely healthy or inexpensive *eek!*

  10. Bill says:

    Wish that incredible shrinking phenomenon would happen to my belly!

    It would seem that as we eat less, we’d all get thinner…but that would be way too convenient!

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