FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Some AmeriGas Propane customers said they were less concerned about Hurricane Dorian's high winds than about the shocking high prices of propane gas Friday at the Fort Lauderdale store.
Steve Raabe was among the unhappy customers at the store on Southwest Second Avenue and Southwest 27th Street. He said there weren't any signs warning customers about the prices.
"I think it's price gouging," Raabe said. "I think they are benefiting from a storm that is coming."
Raabe said he had two tanks. One of them was full and the other was empty. He said he waited in line for about an hour. After an employee filled his tanks, he headed to the register to pay.
"The man puts it in the computer and says, "That will be $66," Raabe said. "I asked him, 'Why so much?' And he said, 'That is what the computer says.'"
Rabee is not alone. Michelle Longway and Nasryth Funes, AmeriGas Propane customers in Fort Lauderdale, were outraged.
"I think they are gouging prices," Longway said.
Funes said she had three tanks filled.
"Normally, it is $19 or $18," Funes said. "Three of them is $100. This is crazy!"
Employees at the store refused to comment. Raabe said he called AmeriGas Propane's customer service number and spoke to a woman who told him there were other variables to consider when calculating the price.
"Her explanation to me was, 'Well, these people are working overtime,' and it depends on the location and time of the year you are buying gas," Raabe said.
At K & K Recreational Vehicle and Mobile Home Supplies at 5882 Stirling Road, in Hollywood they were charging $17 to fill a tank. The were busy all day and employees there said their prices haven't gone up, because their supplier hasn't raised prices. They said their supplier is Amerigas Propane.
At Home Depot in Fort Lauderdale, exchanging an empty tank for a full one will cost $19.97. Employees there said AmeriGas Propane supplies the gas there, too.
Justin Staub, of AmeriGas Propane, released a statement Friday afternoon:
AmeriGas is not engaging in any kind of price gouging at the Fort Lauderdale location or any other location. We have not changed our pricing at Fort Lauderdale for the last two years. Anyone who says something different is simply incorrect.
Customers bring their tanks to our location to be refilled which is different than those who "exchange" their tanks (empty tank for a full one). Pricing is different for a simple reason - you receive more propane in your tank when it is refilled.
If you are facing a hurricane, you'd want to be an AmeriGas customer - this is where we excel. In these types of disasters, manpower is needed to assist our customers. Our plant may be flooded or our employees may be personally affected by flooding – but we don't shut down when our customers need us most.
We have a national network of employees ready to help. It's called AmeriGas Airborne. Employees from all over the country are flown in or brought from other locales to help our customers restore power, find and repair a floating tank or otherwise get back on their feet. For more information on Airborne and to hear what our customers have to say about it, click here, or search Airborne on our website.
If our plant phone lines are down, customers calls are routed to a drier place, so we can still help our customers. In addition, we have a vast supply network of propane that we are able to bring into affected areas when local supplies run out.
I hope I have been able to answer your questions. I think you will see that we are not a company that takes advantage of people facing a hurricane, but rather one that does all it can to help.