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.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 GL September 12, 2005 at 11:57 pm

This is how I imagine hell to be. This would have STRAINED my patience to the breaking point.


2 grumpy old guy July 4, 2014 at 9:27 pm

No. They have natural gas in Hell.


3 Mark Traphagen September 13, 2005 at 10:03 pm

This is why I still use charcoal.


4 Amanda September 13, 2005 at 11:14 pm

Man…some people need to buy some intelligence.


5 Wyman Richardson September 14, 2005 at 8:50 am

Great stuff T.P. By the way, I have an uncle who says that Wal-Mart is the only place on earth that has more people than teeth in it.


6 Travis September 15, 2005 at 4:51 pm

Ha! That’s an excellent line, Wyman.

Yeah, charcoal would have been much easier than this crazy process. By the end, it was just funny, but through most of the middle, it wasn’t.


7 Allison September 16, 2005 at 7:22 am

This has nothing to do with the post above, but, I noticed your reading list and wondered…

are you reading MacBeth partly because it is J.K. Rowling’s favorite Shakespeare play (the idea of the witches and fate stuff) or just for some other random reason?

BTW, I love MacBeth and have the absolutely best Unit Plan ever to teach it, but I can’t use it this year ’cause they teach it to Seniors, not Freshmen here. Sigh.


8 Travis September 16, 2005 at 8:53 am

Allison, yeah, you got me! That is indeed the reason. I’m looking particularly at the use of fate/prophecy/free will, comparing the MacBeth/Weird Sisters ordeal with the prophecy stuff from HP5-6.

That’s really sad about not being able to teach your MacBeth unit. I’m not sure I could handle teaching English to freshmen.


9 Bill August 16, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Ok –
I need to extend your story….
26. Get your exchanged tanks home after going through EXACTLY the above.
27. Notice for the first time that your old tanks had a slide-on gas connector where they attach to the tank and these monsters you just brought home are screw on. You immediately think that your old ones had an adapter and head back to WalMart (leaving new tanks at home) to retrieve your “adapters”, since your Weber grill will only attach using a slide-on connector.
28. Eventually find the person in Lawn & Garden to open the cage again and retrieve your old tanks. Nope. The whole valve is made to be a slide-on fitting. And WalMart sells no adapters. (Later find that no adapters exist – you need to re-plumb your whole grill to use a different type of tank). Head home again.
29. Retrieve tanks at home and return to WalMart.
31. Go home with no propane. The tank refill places don’t operate Sunday (only the Exchange places) so it is take-out tonight !!!


10 Dean November 24, 2009 at 3:42 am

I took my two tanks to walmart and paid 18.33 CDN for each FILLED and refurbished tanks! Cost ow a new tank at Canadian Tire 44.00 CDN no propane! Cost of two newer tanks and both FULL of propane 36.66 CDN

Point …I too had to wait but there are far worse things that people are going through than having to wait for any kind of service of any sort. Suck it up …lets talk about UFO’s!!


11 robin yates April 12, 2010 at 8:34 am

I know this story is true but I roared with laughter because the uk uses similar personel,,


12 smart guy January 17, 2011 at 11:00 pm



13 josh February 13, 2011 at 5:42 pm

^^Dear Smart Guy – The process for simply buying a propane tank at walmart is VERY similar to the prpcess for buying a candy bar at Walmart. Essentially, you pick up the desired item (be it propane tank or candy bar) and then proceed to a check out. Once there, you pay for it. Then you go home.

Don’t be a moron. What did you do before the internet was around?


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15 beccah May 20, 2014 at 5:47 pm

It’s true! I just went through the same thing only I wanted an empty new tank to own and fill myself. After the same song and dance that Smart Guy went through I discovered that the 9 attendants never did listen to my request and intended to sell me some used already filled tank. I just left and decided to find an American store to shop at… that hopefully understands English rather than pushing their products on me that I don’t want. This is what happens when “American” businesses sell out to the Chinese.


16 Diane McPherson July 5, 2014 at 8:47 am

Send your son-in -law to buy one.


17 Justin November 23, 2014 at 2:27 am

Works the same for a car battery warranty. Lol


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