PORT AUX BASQUES – Western Petroleum’s decision to close its Port aux Basques office in August 2019 remains both inconvenient and controversial.
Customers who used to debit at the office when purchasing home heating oil as needed are now obliged to pay online through the bank, then told to call the Corner Brook office again three days later to determine whether or the payment has been credited to their account. Only then can they arrange to receive their furnace oil delivery.
The alternative, to arrange for a monthly credit card charge or automatic bank account withdrawal, is not always convenient or even necessary, especially for seniors who don’t bank online or are on a fixed income and must budget their monthly expenditures carefully.
Aside from this inconvenience, it seems that obtaining service or repairs under the parts protecting plan is also causing some frustration. When Irvings withdrew from the region in 2006, Western Petroleum assumed its customers parts protection plan. One of those customers is Karen Simon.
“I purchased my furnace through Irvings,” explains Simon via e-mail. “Irvings covered the protection plan until 2006 and Western Petroleum took over then.”
Simons says she has been paying yearly for the parts protection plan, which got cancelled this year after a service technician came out on a call.
“I received a letter stating that my parts protection plan was now cancelled because of the flex piping, which Irvings installed,” wrote Simon. “I wonder why they would honour the parts protection plan for 14 years and now when parts are becoming harder to get they cancel the coverage? I do know my parents had one installed the same time, and their protection plan is still valid.”
But even with a valid protection plan, just getting a technician to come all the way out to the Southwest Coast is not necessarily guaranteed. When her parents had a problem with their furnace, the head office declined to send out a technician unless it was first determined to be a parts problem causing the issue.
“Mom was actually told to bleed the line first. They went on to explain that it was only a screw that had to be loosened. My Mom is 80,” says Simon. “I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t have any idea how to bleed the line.”
After making some calls, Simon reached a local company who paid a visit of their own and ascertained that it was a parts problem, so that Simon could get Western Petroleum to send out the technician.
Also factoring into the equation are scheduling and weather.
“If the technician is on vacation there is no coverage,” continues Simon. “In the winter, if the winds are above 70 kph (at the Wreckhouse) the technician will not travel over the road. So when a technician is needed the most there may not be one to get.”
David J. Brown, the Operations & Sales Manager for Western Petroleum in Corner Brook says he is unable to comment on any individual service issues.
“We respond to no-heat calls within a 24-hour period. Inclement weather becomes a safety issue for our employees and contractors, therefore this may at times cause delays which would be no different for any other service related industry,” replied Brown to e-mail inquiries.
Brown promises the company is working on finding a more timely solution for service calls.
“We have struggled to find a reliable service technician for Port aux Basques area. We have looked after emergency service calls for our customers there as required from Corner Brook in the interim, and we hope to have a new service technician in place by mid-month for the upcoming heating season,” wrote Brown. “We will continue to service our parts protection plans form Corner Brook until we have someone in place to provide the service for us closer to the Port aux Basques area.”
Meanwhile Karen Simon has little alternative but to find a competitor for her service calls. No doubt a local Western Petroleum technician would remain much more convenient for her parents and others still protected by the original service plan.
“For them not to be available to this section of the province is unacceptable,” maintains Simon.