Q: Which methods of payment do you accept?
A: You can pay by check (credit-approved automatic delivery accounts only), money order, or credit card. Customers with automatic delivery have the added convenience of choosing SmartPay (our monthly payment program). With SmartPay, you spread out your fuel bills evenly over 11 months.
Q: How do you figure my monthly SmartPay payments?
A: To calculate your monthly fuel payments, we use your fuel delivery record from last year to estimate the number of gallons you will use during the next heating season. We multiply the number of gallons by an estimated price per gallon. This amount is then spread out into equal monthly payments.
Q: If I call you this winter, will your customer service representative know the price for the day and tell me where prices are going?
A: If you want to know the price for that day, please feel free to call our office. We cannot make any predictions on where prices are going, however. The daily price could change from day to day, depending on the weather, inventory, and a host of other factors. No one can predict the oil market. It would be like calling us up and asking for stock market tips. For greater predictability with your fuel prices, learn more about our SmartPay budget plan or our price protection options.
Q: Do I have to be on SmartPay to get your price cap protection?
A: Yes. SmartPay customers have the option of combining the convenience of monthly payments with the protection of a price cap.
Q: Can I call for my oil and still enroll in SmartPay?
A: Unfortunately, no. Because we contract for the oil ahead of time and plan our delivery routes days in advance, we need to be able to predict when we’ll make deliveries, and we can’t do that if everyone called us haphazardly.
Q: Is price cap protection always the best option?
A: Not necessarily. We make the price cap program available to our SmartPay customers, but by no means do we think that everyone should be on it, and we do not make money on the fee. We have no way of knowing whether this “insurance” will pay off, or whether prices will go down and never hit the cap level.
So, if you choose to pay our market rate instead of choosing our price cap protection and the price of oil drops during the heating season, you would save money by buying at the daily rate. You would also save money by not having to pay a price cap fee which we are forced to charge due to the ever-increasing volatility in the oil market. On the other hand, if you pay the market rate and the price of oil rises, you would pay the higher price because you don’t have a cap.
Whatever you decide, know that our commitment is to take the best care of your family we possibly can.
Q: How do you determine what the price cap will be?
A: The price itself of the cap depends on the wholesale price we pay plus an allowance to cover our costs, such as insurance, vehicle maintenance, and employee wages. Planning for price protection the right way is a year-round effort. We analyze pricing trends, study the commodities market daily, and do a lot of research so we can decide when the time is right to make our bulk fuel purchases. Only in this way can we structure a reliable, workable program – one you can count on for protection from unpredictable spikes in the price of fuel. It takes time and money to structure a price cap program correctly and not all heating fuel dealers have the resources to do it, especially in the current market.
Q: Why do I have to pay a fee for your price cap?
A: As you might expect, our suppliers charge us a premium for offering the “insurance” that allows us to keep your price from skyrocketing while at the same time gives us the flexibility of lowering your price should market prices fall. Unfortunately, that cost has increased eightfold in the past few years as fuel prices have become more volatile.
Q: I’ve seen other companies that aren’t charging for a cap. Why is that?
A: We know that many companies don’t actually buy the options they need to really lower their rate. They say they’ll drop it, but the rate is really fixed. Some of them don’t even really buy the oil to protect you from price increases; they just hope for the best. That’s why over the past few years, there have been companies that defaulted on their price protection programs. We have never defaulted on our programs. We do it the right way so you can have the peace of mind you wanted in the first place.
Q: What is downside protection?
A: Since a price cap program protects you from falling prices, we have to purchase options that allow us to “sell back” fuel to the supplier at the higher rate, and then buy more fuel at the new, lower rate. This downside protection allows us to lower our prices when market rates fall.
Q: When do I need to sign up for a price cap?
A: Price cap protection is offered at various times of the year. We mail out letters when the program(s) become available. The programs are available for as long as we have protected gallons to offer. We offer a price cap on a first come, first serve policy.
Q. I’ve seen prices that are lower than yours. Why is that?
A: There are always going to be companies that charge more or less than we do (while we tend to be right in the middle). It’s important to compare apples to apples. First, are they a full-service dealer or just one that makes deliveries, leaving you to fend for yourself if your equipment breaks down or they can’t secure product? Second, are they telling you their regular price or a special come-on rate? This is a game many oil companies play – especially the huge ones. You think you are going to lower your bills permanently, only to discover that your price is pushed up really high as soon as the offer ends. Plus, we offer convenient options like automatic delivery and SmartPay.
In the meantime, when it’s cold and the company is busy, who are they likely to serve first? Customers who are paying the regular rate, or a new one who’s paying a lot less? And how flexible do you think they’d be if you needed more time to pay your bills because of a temporary problem?
Often, these same companies find other ways to skimp that can cost you big time – like not doing the annual tune-up included in their service plan, not offering true night and weekend service, and not keeping enough service technicians on to get to you quickly if you have no heat.