My Turn: Did media, state government cause oil panic?
I have been a Fred Fuller Oil customer for the past 15 years. I have received excellent service, and I have bought oil at a fair price. I have participated in the pre-buy program, and it has saved me a lot of money. One year when the delivery price was below the pre-buy price, the company lowered the cost of my oil, even though I had agreed to the higher pre-buy price. That’s why it now has optional downside protection. I also know that Fred Fuller has been a generous and charitable community supporter in the Bristol area, sponsoring youth teams and participating in other fundraisers.
I did not run out of oil during the recent issues. I might have a different opinion if I did, and if I did not receive prompt responses to my concerns. However, the involvement of the state government reminds me of the “run on the bank” scene from It’s a Wonderful Life.
How many of the 1,850 calls to the hotline were actual Fred Fuller customers who had a contract for oil delivery and were not being served? Was it all 1,850 calls or just a subset of that? I saw Fred Fuller trucks out late at night and on Sunday, so it seemed that they were responsive to the issues.
How much of the company’s resources had to be diverted to deal with the increased attention (panic?) that media reports and the actions of the state government generated?
Heating oil is an essential commodity in New Hampshire, and I understand the concern, but a pre-buy contract has benefits to both the consumer and the company. Do we want to force the industry to a system where it is cash on delivery? Some news reports said that pre-buy gives the oil company an “interest-free loan,” but allowing customers to receive oil and pay later gives the customer an interest-free loan.
How much bad debt do the oil companies write off each year from people who never pay their bills? Should we force the companies to deliver oil to people who have not paid their bills because heating oil is so essential?
I have been willing to participate in pre-buy programs because it has saved me a lot of money in the past 15 years. Is there risk involved? Yes, I need to have confidence that the company will fulfill its end of the contract. I am hopeful that Fred Fuller has survived this issue and will continue to provide the great service that I have experienced in the past 15 years. Business relies on trust, and I am hopeful that customers will give the company a chance to rebuild the excellent reputation that has been established over the past 40 years.
(Dean Cascadden lives in Bristol.)