When is a Good Price on a Range Not a Good Price?

When that good price comes from a big, nationwide retailer like Sears or Home Depot, and it’s a gas appliance that you want to run on propane, that’s when.

You see, virtually no gas home appliance comes straight from the factory equipped to run on propane. A few do, but they’re very few. Most all are designed to run on natural gas, because that’s what the majority of customers use. But the difference between the two fuels is actually very minor, making it theoretically easy to convert from one to the other. And since it increases their market size, manufacturers inevitably make it easy to do said conversion. But, it’s still a conversion that has to be done. You can’t just hook the appliance up and have it operate properly.

I shopped at Sears for my stove. They had good prices, and Kenmore is actually a very highly-rated brand. Then I mentioned the p-word (propane) and the person on the phone giving me price quotes stammered and did a double-take. He said he’d have to get back to me. When he did, the cost was around $250. Goodbye to any price advantage for buying a stove from Sears as opposed to my local mom-and-pop store.

I tried Home Depot. The result was even worse. They simply didn’t do propane at all. Their “free installation” was for natural gas customers only. I’d have to pay a third-party service technician (probably from my local mom-and-pop appliance store) to convert and install it. Say goodbye to any Home Depot price advantage.

Meanwhile, the local mom-and-pop store is on an island with no natural gas service. So virtually every gas appliance they sell ends up being converted for propane use. It’s just part of their standard procedure. They tack on a fee for it, but it’s nominal by comparison.

Neither national retailer ended up being definitively more expensive, actually. It merely became a wash, price-wise. But why deal with someone out-of-town when I can deal with someone local? And why raise the spectre possible finger-pointing (“It wasn’t us! We sold you a good range! Your installer broke it!” “It wasn’t me! They sold you a defective range!”)?

It’s sort of a surprise, really. There’s lots of people in the same boat I am where I live. I’d not be surprised if a Seattle store had no idea of how to deal with a customer who used propane, but it’s a complete surprise to see such an attitude in Poulsbo.

Oh well, their loss.

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