Friday, January 18, 2008

Give Me Irving Oil in My Lamp? Please!

I don't usually post on subjects that are not directly related to theology or church affairs, but I can't help but post on this. Maybe a moral lesson can be gleaned from this little story, but it will have to come as result of the reader's illumination, and nothing that I might write. I just need an outlet to vent my frustrations.

It pains me to say it, but the Irving Oil Company is really testing my patience. The main reason it pains me to say this is because the company hails from New Brunswick, Canada - the birthplace of my father and the home to many nice people. For the most part, people from Eastern Canada are very nice. I know this from first-hand experience because my family has a summer home in Nova Scotia and we interact with people from this part of the continent regularly.

But this is too much. Let me explain.

About a month ago now, I had a message on my voice mail from a pleasant lady named Sandy who was from Irving Oil. She informed me that approximately 60 gallons of oil had mistakenly been put into my home oil tank, and they could either give me the oil at a highly discounted rate, or take the oil out altogether. They preferred the former option, so they were willing to work with me on the expense.

A little confused, I returned the phone call the next day and talked with someone else, whose name slips me. Apparently, what supposedly happened is Irving was set up to automatically fill my landlord's tank (he has a separate tank for the rest of the building, which is office space) and they had mistakenly put some of the oil into my tank. They offered me the oil at about a third the price of what it normally would have cost, and deferred the payments until February. Gleeful over my fortune of getting oil for a much lower price, I agreed to sign up for the deal. I was so excited, in fact, that I called up my wife and told her the good news.

The problem is, I decided to go down to check my tank after I hung up the phone and I discovered that my landlord's tank was full, and my tank was empty. Hadn't I just received a bunch of oil a few days before (granted, 60 gallons is not a ton of oil, but it certainly wouldn't have been spent that quickly)? Once again confused, I called Irving Oil back and informed them that I hadn't, in fact, received the oil.

Of course, they were not sure what to do. When I told them that I thought my landlord had received it, they told me that they would call him to seek permission to put the charge back on his account. At this, I hung up the phone and assumed that everything would be resolved.

Two or three weeks later, I saw my landlord and asked him about the situation. Apparently, what had happened is that he received two invoices on the same day, indicating that his tank had received oil two separate times about 20 minutes apart. He was confused as to why this would have happened and the assumption was that they had placed the oil in my tank the second time. But why would the oil be placed in two separate tanks - especially since I never ordered the oil, and I was not set up for automatic fill-up - 20 minutes apart?

When I talked with someone from Irving, they told me that this happens fairly frequently. Apparently the meter runs out on the truck, and the driver has to return to the truck and restart the meter, only to return to the fill-pipe to resume filling. But this still wouldn't answer the question of why I would receive oil when I never ordered it. The person who I talked to on the phone assured me that they would straighten it out with my landlord. It would be resolved.

The problem is, my landlord had the same questions. Why would there be a 20 minute interval between the time he got the first oil, and when he got the second? It wasn't making sense to him.

Thinking that things were being taken care of, I got another message from Irving last week that totally threw me for a loop and, quite frankly, is making me a little batty. They informed me that they had talked with my landlord and, not only was that oil in December really put into my tank, but they had also supposedly delivered oil to my tank back in October and November and I owed them over a thousand dollars for oil.

My landlord was around at the time, so I immediately marched over to him to ask him what the deal was. He was sure that he didn't get the oil, and he had talked with Irving for about an hour the night before. They concluded that I had received that oil all along because, based on the average home our size, I should have been using a certain amount of oil. He told me, though, that if I didn't think I got the oil, then I should fight it. Ultimately, he said, it is their fault for being so disorganized.

The truth is, I never received any notification that I received any oil, and when I checked my tank the few times that I did, it was rather low. There is no way I could have received oil at the times they said I did. No way!

I talked with my mother, who lives in a much larger home than me, and she said that they have gone through two tanks of oil since September - about 500 gallons. During that time, I have allegedly gone through 375 gallons of oil (not counting the oil that was already in the tank when we moved into the place). This, despite the fact that I live in about an apartment that is about 600-square feet, and my parents' home is well over 1500-square feet. This isn't even to mention the fact that I was in the Northwest for all of September (which was a warm month, anyway), and the first week or so of October. Granted, my wife was still here, but she didn't even turn the heat on once. Plus, we were gone for about a week, total, over the Christmas/New Year's holiday.

Where did all that oil go?

So I called up Irving once again and talked to Aaron, who assured me that he would "look into it." He said that he would call my landlord (something that a previous person told me they were not allowed to do) and try to resolve the problem. Ultimately, of course, someone has to pay for the oil, he said, despite the fact that the Irving Oil company seems to have a clear problem with figuring out just exactly what they're doing. Feeling confident that the problem would finally be resolved, I get a letter in the mail today, with my overdue balance and all the invoices from the delivery.

Why - if these invoices are from the October, November and December deliveries - am I finally receiving them now? Do they think that this is proof that they did, in fact, deliver the oil to me at those dates? Why stop in October? Just write me an invoice for June 12, 2001 and tell me that this is proof that they delivered oil to me back then!

What is the most bizarre twist of all, though, is that on the top of the bill, there is a $7.55 interest charge for oil that I never knew I had nor was ever billed for. They never gave me a chance to pay the bill to begin with, so how can I be charged interest? Obviously, it's only $7.55 - no big deal - but the principle of the matter is what drives me crazy.

So, once again, I called up Irving Oil and talked with Donna this time - a lady who seems to be a step above the Aarons and Sandys of their company. She seemed to be a little more informed and explained that the oil had, in fact, been delivered to me because they had an invoice for it. And what must have happened is that my landlord had been getting automatic delivery for my tank. On his account, she said, is his home address (in another town) and my address. Thus, they never put a stop to delivery to my apartment, and they had mistakenly billed him for filling up my tank.

The problem is, when Donna read the instructions for my address, they read, "Right fill-pipe." My tank is the left fill-pipe and, of course he would still want automatic delivery to my address because he is still responsible for filling up the tank for the rest of the building. "Oh," she responded, "I see." She then went on to explain that there must have been a mistake, and they must have filled both our tanks whenever they delivered it to his tank.

Well how do I know that? Am I supposed to take their word for it, three months after the fact?

She assured me that she would look into it, though. She would talk with the drivers - as if they will be able to remember where, exactly, they put the oil, three months after they delivered it - get the original tickets from the deliveries, and resolve the problem.

I am very confident that this will be resolved.

Or not.

Donna, as nice as she is, is now the fourth or fifth person I have talked with about the situation. They have all said, "Don't worry, Mr. Brace, we will look into the problem. We'll figure out what the problem is and we'll get back to you." I'm still waiting for a call from Aaron, Sandy, and all the other fine citizens of Canada to tell me what has happened. Excuse me if I am not very optimistic that Donna will solve the problem, either. The next communication I will probably have with Irving is another bill in the mail, informing me that I have another $7.55 in interest that needs to be paid for oil I am not sure I ever got.

Before I close, let me share a few things. First, there is no dispute between my landlord and me. We are both fairly confident that we never received the oil that was allegedly delivered to us.

Second, everyone at Irving Oil has been extremely nice, perhaps too nice. They have been polite and courteous at all times - almost to the point of making me feel bad if I were to push the issue too much. When someone is being very nice, it is hard to respond to them with anger or even a little more agitation. I guess there is a lesson in that somewhere.

Third, chances are I received some oil at some point before I ordered it on January 5. I couldn't have gone the whole three months after moving in without getting some oil. But I don't think I got all the oil they said I did, and how am I to know which fill was really the oil I got? Do I just choose the least expensive fill, and say that was the oil I got? Do they claim the most expensive one is mine?

Part of the problem is, neither my landlord or I are people who go down to check the tank every day. And why should we be? If I am not expecting oil, and I never get an invoice saying I received it that day, why would I keep checking it to see how much I have? In our previous house in Michigan - a place that was far worse when it comes to insulation - we went through one tank of oil in two years. Granted, our water was not heated by oil, nor did we have a dishwasher, but why would I think that we would go through more oil than that in three months? And why would it be my responsibility to check up on the level of my oil every day, just to check to see if, maybe, I had received oil?

I know this sounds pretty pathetic. After all, we live in America where problems like these pale in comparison to what happens in undeveloped countries. Forgive me for sounding so materialistic and self-centered. I am not usually one to complain about these things. Usually my wife has to do all she can to light a fire underneath me to be upset about these things. But, quite frankly, I can't afford to pay $1000 for oil that I don't know whether I ever got.

Am I wrong?


holamickey said...

Pastor Brace,
Yes -Philadelphia due north will be a must. You welcome in my town anytime.
Very difficult "real life" drama you got going on up there. It's been nice being in a place that I just paid rent and everything was included.
I believe in niceness - but not "mindless niceness."

I spent a Sabbath afternoon with a friend of yours... Well I am guessing Matt is a friend in that he claims you as a best man in his wedding.

mhb said...

Please don't give up on New Hampshire yet! Stuff like this happens, and we'll pray you through it.

Anonymous said...

I am an elderly lady in Montpelier VT and a customer of Irving. Am locked into my oil price so I am stuck with them. Presently oil tank on empty for the past 3 days have called them for my automatic refill. The sweet ladies in New Brunswick are really the Septford Wives...or are they robots who sweetly tell you that the truck will be there that day. They are not a good company to do business with.

Shawn Brace said...

I am sorry to hear about your trouble with Irving, Anonymous! That certainly isn't fun. I would suggest you find a new company as soon as your contract runs out.

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