Monopoly - fuel for the propane fire
Ever noticed there are days when you feel the burden of a day more than others? Today was one of those days, the busiest day of my work week and one where it started off by reading a criminal complaint that literally made my stomach churn. A man charged with 9 counts of child porn possession, a detailed criminal complaint laced with some of the most disgusting details on child porn videos that a person could imagine....no, worse than the normal everyday person could ever think of. Yes, while at times I love my job, being able to expose stories like that to our community, bringing about awareness to things many still will not discuss, does bring some satisfaction to me - helps me to make sense out life and some of the experiences I've had in mine.
That was the start of my day, reading that complaint and writing about it all, all the sick and twisted ...evil details of a sick man and his pleasure hobby. To follow that came writing yet another article on propane, a once mundane topic to me...or so I thought - I thought that until I listened to the tears of elderly women telling their stories about desperately trying to make it on Social Security...living a life alone as a widow...and going without all so that they could pay for heat in their rural home, paying prices for propane that their next door neighbors weren't paying all because they had a different company's tank in their yard - heating the home they once shared with the love of their life who at one time took care of those "worries" these women now face....the bills...the attempt to survive in an economy like no other, when you are nothing more than that credit score, and one where every day is a new adventure in surviving.
To say I can keep from having an opinion on a situation like that would be a lie....who could keep from forming some opinion? A morning reading about children being sexually assaulted and raped for the pleasure of many to widowed grandmothers being what they called "raped' of their savings, pensions and Social Security income in the name of a free market...all of which is connected to money...someone making money off of those with no voice. Makes you wonder about society and the world...just how far have we come?
I guess I feel a connection to those child victims, as well as to those grandmas. In the end we are all survivors - Once I was that child, and today I understand what it is like to be a woman struggling on her own to make ends meat to survive...to heat my home when the temps outside drop below zero - and what it is like to apply for assistance to do so. Every penny counts - every decision matters - every step leads to yet another situation and decisions to make on how to stretch the pennies left. It's overwhelming, so to hear a woman who is suppose to be in her Golden Years of life cry out of frustration of feeling like they were taken advantage of, well...damn straight I have an opinion on the situation, and will continue to until those calls stop and wrongs are made into rights. A pretty simple concept...that is if you're not the one taking advantage of another.
If you're not sure what I am speaking about, then read the last two posts I've written - they outline a concern right now with many people in my community...the price of propane, and possible price gouging by a company that many never realized switched hands from a once thought locally owned business to just another money making vehicle for a large corporation - Inergy Propane.
Now Inergy Propane may feel like I am picking on them, but really I've only asked questions...pointed out facts...and saved my opinion to only be voiced here, my personal blog. Unfortunately...or fortunately...depending on who you are...this is where I practice my freedom of speech...where I vent out frustrations...and sometimes joys.
I will say that through my research I've learned that Inergy Propane is not the only major propane corporation with accusations against them of excessive prices....or as others have said "price gouging" their existing customer base. But, and perhaps this isn't a surprise to some, I am learning that many of the major players in these corporations have at one time or another worked for those other propane corporations....for instance...
John Sherman - President and founder of Inergy Propane , which is currently the 4th largest propane company....well, according to Inergy's own website, has worked for Ferrellgas as Vice President and prior to starting Inergy Propane. Now keep in mind that in 2008 Michigan's acting Attorney General filed an action alleging "price gouging" against Inergy Propane...Much like Michigan's Attorney General, Iowa's Attorney General took action just last year against Ferrellgas for pretty much the same thing - Read Here
"Iowa customers complained of being charged prices different from other customers, different pricing for customers who own tanks versus those who did and not disclosing fees when people become customers. Some customers complained of being charged more than $3 per gallon in early 2010 when the average price was less than $1.90."-
If you do a search on Ferrellgas I am more than sure you will find other complaints out there...on other blogs and in articles.....
Then there is Amerigas ...The largest propane company...well, oh boy! They too share something in common with Inergy Propane....key people have worked for both, and like Ferrellgas and Inergy have been accused of PRICE GOUGING...go figure! Do the search...you'll see what I mean....
Now should I be surprised that large corporations who juggle employment of key players treat their customers somewhat the same? Nah, not really -
Something about this all is reminding me of a Wild West scenario but rather than cattle barons we have propane kings squeezing out the little mom and pop retailers...or, like what Inergy Propane seems to do, actively and aggressively buying them out - and rising rapidly up that list to becoming soon (in business years) the largest propane company - Pretty soon it feels like the only competitors will be them...and who then can claim price gouging when they are the only real players in the market? There will no longer be a need for a competitive market and rural America - those widowed grandmothers who feel as if in the dusk of their lives they are being financially raped......yes those grandmas will be completely at their mercy. Scary thought, no?
Well pocket groups throughout the country are popping up and pushing towards pricing regulations. One such group is in Texas of all places...and I say that only because of the political make-up of Texas and my own assumption that of all states I would think they would be last for such a push. Now, being from Wisconsin, there's a part of me that chuckles when in that report that's linked above speaks about it being 40 degrees outside....I mean after all here, tonight, it's 15 degrees and tomorrow night the low is expected to be 5 ...that doesn't include wind chills.
Now here is where I am going to remind readers that they may not be aware of Inergy Propane as many of the companies they do buy, well ...they retain their names...I mean I can only assume, but why not, then customers and potential customers may feel better if thinking they are dealing with Honest Joe down the street...."Ya know the guy,,,his kid plays football with yours! You've been dealing with him for years!" - I have to tip my hat to Sherman...quite a gimmick there...much like what customers are accusing them of..., that they are lured in with low prices for 6 or so months, they sign that contract....have that tank on their property and then Golly Gee...the bait was taken and when the switch comes in those once new customers are existing customers paying a higher than the "competitive" price...Really, who would be the wiser when the entire time you never realized that behind Honest Joe's name and disguise was a wolf waiting to bite?!?!? Anyone else picturing that Monopoly dude dancing all the way to Boardwalk on the back of widowed grandmothers..their Social Security...Government Energy Assistance payments..rural America....the most poverty stricken areas....? Yikes...yup, scary.
But what do I know...I am just an undereducated,,,in debt,,, low income divorced mom struggling to make ends meat myself..How could I ever have a clue? Right, Mr. Monopoly Dude?