How to Purchase a Propane Tank at Walmart

by Travis Prinzi on September 12, 2005

Here’s the step-by-step process you might encounter (as I did) if you should decide to purchase or refill your propane tank at Walmart.

1.  Drive to your local Walmart, intending to buy a new propane tank, so it’ll be longer before you run out.
2. Inquire in the Lawn and Garden section about propane tanks.
3. Sales Associate will tell you to go talk to the associate at the front of the store.
4. Proceed to the front of the store, where you will be told by another Sales Associate to go to the Lawn and Garden department. 
5. Explain to the front store Sales Associate that you were already sent to her by Lawn and Garden.
6. Front Sales Associate directs you to Old Senile Greeter (OSG) at the very front of the store, with whom you will have the following conversation:

OSG: Do you have your empty propane tank with you?
ME: No, I want to buy a new one, so that I have two.
OSG: Oh.
ME: How much is a new one?
OSG: $40
ME: And how much to fill the empty one?
OSG: $15
ME: Oh, ok.  I’ll just come back and get the other one filled.
OSG: Do you have your empty tank with you?
ME: No, I’ll just bring it back later.
OSG: No, you can’t do that unless you have it with you.
ME: What?
OSG: You can’t get the tank filled unless you have it with you.
ME (as I start walking back to the register where my wife is): I know, I’ll bring it back at another time.
OSG (following me across the store): No, you have to have it with you today.
ME: No.  Listen.  I’m not going to purchase anything today.  I’ll come back another time and pay for it and have it filled at the same time.
OSG: Oh.  ok.

7. Drive home, and come back a few days later with empty propane tank.
8. Carry empty tank into store and speak to first Sales Associate you see.
9. Be directed to Lawn and Garden, by way of outdoor entrance, by Sales Associate, who promises to have someone go around and open the gate there.
10. Walk outside to Lawn and Garden entrance and wait for no one to show up and open the gate. 
11. Speak with Lawn and Garden Sales Associate, whom I will affectionately call "Hick," through the gate, which he seems to have no intention of opening.
12. Hick will tell you to go around to the outdoor area where the Propane Tanks are.
13. Proceed to Propane Tank area, where there is no Sales Associate.
14. After 5-10 minutes, read directions on locked propane tank cage, which instruct you to go to a cashier, pay for the exchanged tank, and then find Sales Associate to swap tanks for you.
15. Find cashier, who directs you to another cashier, a short plump woman (SPW) who, upon hearing your request and trying to send you back to Lawn and Garden, wanders off to Customer Service, mumbling something about things being set up in the wrong place. 
16. Meanwhile, another pleasant woman, whom I will affectionately refer to as "Butch," asks if you need anything, and you explain that SPW has gone off to get help.
17. SPW returns with the key to the propane tank cage which is attached to a keytag with a bar code for propane tanks on it, and hands said key to Butch.
18. Butch tries unsuccessfully to scan bar code and has no idea how to enter $14.25 on the register if the bar code doesn’t work.
19. Butch explains that we are setting off once more for Lawn and Garden to find someone there who can help. 
20. The only person in Lawn and Garden is Hick, who doesn’t want to have anything to do with the deal, but tells Butch how to override the register settings to charge me for the tank.
21. As we set off for the store front again (because for some reason, she couldn’t ring me up at the register we were standing right next to in Lawn and Garden), Butch will ask if you know where the propane tanks are (because she doesn’t).
22. After finally completing the sale, Butch will follow you outside to the propane tank cage, where she (the Walmart Sales Associate) will ask you (the customer) what to do.
23. Explain to Butch that she must use the key to open the cage, that you will leave your empty tank and take a full tank.
24. After swapping tanks, Butch (the Walmart Sales Associate) will ask you (the customer) what she is supposed to do with the empty tank.
25. Explain to Butch that someone will fill the empty tank to be resold, tell her to have a good day, and then walk away from a very confused Butch who stands there and stares at the empty tank.

Total Walmart Associates involved in the process of swapping a propane tank: 9.
Total estimated time for exchanging a propane tank: 1-2 hours.

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