Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Training - Automatic TLC, or Who Not To Use For Oil

Instead of spinning on the bike, I've been on hold with our heating oil and service company, using two lines, one for service, one for oil.

Why am I calling them?

Because we have virtually no oil in our tank.

A short time after we bought the house, my "low oil" sense got tingly. It's served me well in our last house, and I checked to see if we'd been getting any kind of delivery in the past weeks or month.


We ran out of oil that night.

It was cold.

They came and delivered oil, through a technician that had to be called to bleed the system and such. Nice guy actually, friendly, quick, efficient. He put 10 gallons of fuel in and asked us to hang on until the next morning. He was friendly enough that he negated the cold air, the bad experience, and he made us feel like he cared. And if they have workers like that, the company had to be okay. Right?

We waited the next morning. They finally delivered, carefully, unwilling to risk damage to the steep driveway, dragging a hose up to the fill pipe. The guy was cheerful, friendly.

Not a bad company, right?

Our system was on its way out, we knew that when we bought the house. So we bought a several thousand dollar system through them. They promised us service. They promised us automatic oil delivery. They had nice service personnel. I believed the company. I believed that spending thousands and thousands of dollars would make them put me just a bit higher on the list of "recent big spending clients".

But no.

My "low oil" sense started tingling last week, but due to some bike guy (moi) stacking up a bunch of bike parts boxes in front of the closet door hiding the oil tank, I never made the effort to check. Two nights ago the tingling started jangling. I moved the boxes and saw the red oil level marker sitting at the bottom of its range.

We had virtually no oil.

No automatic delivery obviously. It's been a few months since we received any oil, and we've had some of the coldest weather the area's had in recent history. Lots of snow. Power outages caused by ice. All sorts of cold weather. They claim they calculate our oil needs using a "Computerized 'degree-days' system". Right. They don't bother delivering unless they feel like it.

Yesterday we duly called to request oil, they promised us oil delivery the next morning.

That would be this morning.

This evening we met after work, confident that we had heat for the next few months. We went out for dinner, did some shopping. With a big storm forecast for tomorrow, we wanted to be able to bundle up and weather out the storm without having to go buy basic necessities.

When we got home, we didn't find the oil delivery slip in the door. I went downstairs and checked the tank.


We have a contract with them, and yes, they arrived when they had to, but man, do they suck otherwise.

Am I alone in this experience? I don't think so - some other opinions:
The first complaint
Complaints by the dozen

If you are considering them, I am telling you that I'd look elsewhere. We have a service contract with them, but that won't necessarily stop us from buying oil elsewhere. In fact, that's probably what we'll do - COD oil delivery.

For sure, as soon as our contract runs out, we'll find someone else.

It's frustrating enough that I can't work on a normal post. So now we have three lines calling them, all on hold (the missus joined in).

Chalk up one rest day for today. Tomorrow? Either I'll be wearing tights and a jacket in the basement or I'll be ripping off some 20 minute efforts in shorts and a jersey.

50 minutes and counting.


Suitcase of Courage said...

UGH!! How EXTREMELY frustrating!! Why won't people do what they say??!! Especially when there's a CONTRACT?!

I'm sorry that this is sucking so bad for you and hope you finally got through, gave them what for, and FINALLY got some oil.

Chris V. said...

We had TLC the first year we were in our house and the prices were decent. The next year, the prices were significantly higher than the competition. Never had a problem with delivery, but their customer service was definitely sub-par. My wife's grandfather also had some bad experiences with them, so I would never recommend them to anybody.

We have a pellet stove now and upgraded to natural gas for hot water, so fortunately I don't even use oil anymore.

Aki said...

Okay, so this morning we got oil. The missus called early (6:30 AM), got the answering service in about 3 seconds flat. This makes me believe that the phones weren't staffed last night. They said that they can't do anything about the oil or lack thereof.

At 8 she called again. They promised a delivery immediately.

And they delivered, in a snow storm, up an unplowed driveway (the association hadn't plowed it yet), etc etc.

So now I feel like I can take a shower without risking getting a cold shock.

There are few things that (semi-seriously) make me feel like I'm failing my duties as a husband. One is watching my wife crawl up the slippery (ice/snow) driveway after falling twice really hard (and since the plowers saw this also, we've had a usually extremely well plowed and sanded/salted driveway). That happened earlier this year.

The other happened last night - quietly picking up her cell phone out of her hand because she fell asleep while on hold with the oil company. And having the phone still repeating its message and cheesy background music.

We hope to have a pellet stove in shortly to supplement the regular oil heat. We will still use oil for baseboard heat and hot water, and we'll need to make sure the oil furnace runs somewhat regularly when it's below freezing so the pipes don't freeze. But when it's chilly but not freezing, I think we can really cut down on oil use.

Anonymous said...

- Sometimes, you get what you pay for. -

We have used Automatic TLC off and on for about 8 years now, and the most frustrating thing to me was their price of oil was a lot higher than the competition. Their service was great, and their people were pleasant. It just became unaffordable. So, I went shopping, and I switched. BIG MISTAKE! I ran out of oil on a Friday night, in January, when I was just about to walk out of the door to an important get together. I tried calling my company with the low prices, and they never answered the phone, nor called me back. Luckily, we knew a plumber, who was able to help us through the weekend. We called our company on Monday, and they told us their emergencies were during the week only, and sometimes they may have a technician on hand for the weekend, but couldn't guarantee. NOT WHAT THEY TOLD ME WHEN I SIGNED UP! I wanted to cancel my contract, and they told me $600 fee! NO WAY! I was forced into dealing with them for the rest of the year.

Since, then, I went back to TLC. Their price was great for the first year, and then it went up again. However, I called customer care again, and they got me into a plan that was more affordable, and even gave me a credit towards my next delivery. I will never change again!