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.

{ 29 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.

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

No. They have natural gas in Hell.

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

This is why I still use charcoal.

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4 Amanda September 13, 2005 at 11:14 pm

Man…some people need to buy some intelligence.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
30. GO THROUGH THE ENTIRE SERIES – POINTS 1-25 – IN REVERSE TO GET MONEY BACK. I AM NOT KIDDING.
31. Go home with no propane. The tank refill places don’t operate Sunday (only the Exchange places) so it is take-out tonight !!!

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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!!

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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,,

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

DUDE YOU WERE NOT VERY HELPFUL, INSTEAD OF KICKING THE BASICS AND SAVING US ALL SOME TIME ALL YOU DID WAS VENT ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AT WALMART. STICK TO THE FACTS AND NUMBERS PLEASE OR RENAME YOUR ARTICLE TO MY BAD EXPERIENCE GETTING A PROPANE TANK AT WALMART. L8TR !

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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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14 bob forapples January 10, 2012 at 10:03 am

You will positively cherish working with Social Security and their
attidude to help you get life back on track after a Stroke

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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…..one 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.

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16 Dave April 9, 2015 at 6:52 pm

Lol.. Thanks to your post I just made up my mind where not go .. Thank you

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17 Haha October 18, 2015 at 10:56 am

There is a such thing as a Walmart Sales Ascociate? Wait, you found 9 of them?!?!? The service at your walmart sounds extremely good compared to mine!

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18 Carolyn Nixon November 26, 2015 at 12:06 am

Makes me want to eat “Straight outta the microwave”

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19 Leo August 14, 2016 at 2:32 pm

ThIs is correct, amost punched the sales associate in the face for yelling at me to take MY EMPTY TANK OUTSIDE BEFORE WE ALL BLOW UP. WALMART HAS NO SIGNS OR A PROPER PROCEDURE TO EXCHANGE TANKS, BUY TANKS, WERE TO PLACE UR EMPTY TANK TO BE EXCHANGED SO YOUR 50$ tank doesnt get stollen, while waiting in a longest damn line youve ever seen in the lawn and grill section. Absolute head ache! (Definitely made that asshole associate take my empty tank to the outside place he was shouting about, no sign anywere in site and replace it with his own energy) do better walmart, Riverdale, Ga, lawn and grill section.

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20 Chuck Robinson December 6, 2016 at 10:56 am

Hello, I am so sorry for individuals as you. You should drive your parents / grandmothers / Volvo or old Mercedes to a propane outlet. There you may pay up to 1.75 more for a new full tank. You probably do not work and thus try to save every penny of your parents / grandparents money or you would have went straight to a propane dealer. Have you ever worked with the worst group of collective individuals…”the general public” (TGP)? As you are a member of TGP, you are demanding, rude and feel a sense of entitlement dealing with the “little people” (LP) such as those that have chosen to work with at Wal-Mart rather than be on welfare. Would you help your OSGM (Old Senile Greeter Mother) that lost her husband and had always been a housewife taking care of family and eventually her sick and dying husband, thus being forced to work when she should be enjoying every day. Instead she was devoted to help her family when she was a young woman. I am sure she did not plan to have to work there and so you could purchase some propane? I doubt it. Have you went there at 3AM and saw who stocks the shelves so you can get up at noon and “mosey down and get almost anything you want”, at a discount? Your personal wealth and perceived importance allows you to be a be “really rude and not so nice person” (RRP). Try going to East La or Burkina Faso West Africa and see if everybody gravells at your every need. When in Nicaragua or El Salvador go to a local market and have armed guards with AK47s watch and search you to be sure you do not try to steal something. Then go to the meat market and get the meat with the fewest flies and least amount of mud on your rotting fish or mystery meat. Being American with a Cardigan sweater means nothing to 80% of the world. The other part of the world cooks, heats and sterilizes water with the small pocket size bottles. Complain to the store and then you can call the State Department for help to get out of jail. Perhaps you are well read but apparently your vision of the world stops at your cornea. I truly hope you do not have to figure out how good you have it. I will pray that such a RRP such as you will become compassionate as to the plight of others and then be passionate about helping the billions of people that did not get a free ride to Walmart to cook their “meat du jour” outside, pool side. Have a peaceful day and life. C Robinson, DMD, and a thankful person (TP) to be an American.
PS – What ever substance you are using besides your wasted mind I suggest Rehab. ASAP. My prognosis is poor as healing such as you require comes from the heart. I fear you only have a physical one which can only pump blood to your wasted mind.

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21 Justsomeguy December 19, 2016 at 11:42 pm

??Chuck, you sound angry… I feel the initial post was simply to vent about what should have been a simple process. I got a good laugh out of the whole situation described and never once thought the gentleman was boasting about his perceived importance. All of our situations on this earth are relative. Everyone experiences nuances in their life that are inconvenient and frustrating. With your logic, no one could ever express how they feel about a situation that was irritating. Using your perspective, don’t you feel there are other people that could have received a greater benefit from the use of your time that it took to post your comment? I state this as merely an idea to provoke a thought and not to invoke an argument. I think sometimes people just need to let out a little steam and not be judged for how they proceed as long as it is not aimed at hurting others. Hopefully you were able to let out a little steam yourself. ??

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22 Chuck Robinson December 20, 2016 at 11:07 am

Hello Justsomeguy;
You are so correct. The 8 minutes that I vented could have been spent on other more productive endeavors.
1. Nobody ever says…You know you are right… I was being obnoxious!
2. I have spent so many years seeing and living with the other 70-80% of the world. I may be from (LA-Lower Alabama) but there are other places and greater problems than propane.
3. My “rub” came from the degrading of people working at Walmart especially the elderly lady that acts as a greeter. I try to speak to them and get a feel why they are working and do they like it. That would be a book I would love to write…..”Hello from The Walmart Greeters”. A great insight into a generation quickly leaving us.
4. I have always considered it a blessing to be able to go to “The Walmart” and shop 24/7 with kind, good people that are trying to stay 1 step ahead of the bills.
5. I agree it was a funny story. I have experienced the same thing at “Upscale Stores” buying everything from diamonds to leather and Cashmere.
6. My stories about entering Burkina Faso/El Salvador / Mali/ etc. are not funny when meds are ransacked and buying anything at a government store is an experience that hopefully this country never has to resort to. By the way, most goods are stamped with, “Not For RE-Sale”- Donated by WHO, etc.
7. Seldom do I care about others opinions about me, but I do care about other Americans opinion about his fellow man.
8. This same behavior is rampant in my on immediate and extended family.
9. Finally, you are so correct, I should have never attacked a person’s character or motives. I was wrong and I do know better. I am highly educated and trained in the social graces of knowing when to laugh or look solem. Thank you for your kind constructive advice. I recognize, you as an educated and thoughtful kind person that helps keeps loose cannons like me from allowing my “social liberalism” take over my limited time and acting like an LA redneck”.
10. CULATRBY

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23 Justsomeguy December 20, 2016 at 8:34 pm

Wow! I appreciate the depth and candor of your comments. People like yourself are the reason I still believe the internet was a good idea. I agree and second your 3rd, 4th, and 7th points. I fall short on understanding number 10 though. It is probably due to my PEITS (public education in Texas schools).

Thanks for the respectful back and forth!

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24 Chuck Robinson December 22, 2016 at 3:19 pm

Hello Justsomeguy from December 20, 2016 at 8:34 pm,
Thank you for your kind response.
In reference to my numbers, I must first say that writing like this keeps me on track. It also harkens back to my 13 years of teaching Anatomy and Physiology in my last years of my money? making career. I left private practice to pursue my passion of teaching. I had to take a very early retirement. Once a teacher…always a teacher.

1. To make a short story long…I had an Aunt Ruth that was a “Pearl Among Diamonds” as I say about the .1% of my personal loves in my life. She never would come to the door or window or even leave her room when leaving to go back to California after a visit. She was so sad to leave, she would not let our backsides be her last memories of us until we were together again. In my youth I thought it was quirky as was anything different than me. As we in Alabama say the “nuts roll west”. Of course us red necks are too stuck in the mud to roll very far.

Now, my Aunt Ruth being so sad to leave would just tear up and say, See you later by, and just close the door. I adopted the acronym in my feighn attempt to make “good bys” and conversations end short and sweet with no built in redundancy. Thus the CULATRBY, I generally use it as a “good by” especially with folks that do not know me. I like to cause people to think, how ever mundane the outcome is. Any body that knows me know when my conversation or whatever is over, it is CULATRBY and I am out, gone, off the phone, etc. before the door or dial tone cuts in.

My students loved it. Right in the middle of a discussion about the acetabulum or the crista galli I would say…CULATRBY. I actually would be the first person out the door which is difficult in any classroon setting. Never have I seen a greater number of great minds flea an area of knowledge to go no where. They move faster than people being shot at with real bullets.

The next time you are saying goodbye to someone count how many times the same thing is said at least 3 times. Try it with your acquaintances and see how fast you can get away and onto other things, ie leave or hang up.
CULATRBY

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25 TyroneTribe January 10, 2017 at 1:12 pm

origami patterns origami crane about twitter.com/origamilesson

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26 Chuck Robinson January 12, 2017 at 12:17 pm

Chuck Says…..Save a Tree…….No Origami for me…….Glad that Origami is Cool for you. I fail to see the connection between Origami and Propane……Enlighten me Please

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27 Chuck Robinson August 24, 2017 at 8:26 pm

This Chuck did not say the above quote. Origami hurts no one. Origami is not illegal or fattening, inhumane to dogs, children and other lifeforms. There is however a very secret and little known fact about Origami. CULATRBY

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28 86Paulina August 24, 2017 at 11:21 am

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29 Chuck Robinson August 24, 2017 at 8:48 pm

Hello 86Paulina,
Great word “monetize”. CULATRBY

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