Nova Scotia

Customers in N.S. frustrated with Irving home heating oil delivery

Irving home heating oil customers across Nova Scotia have taken to the social media to voice frustration about fuel deliveries.

'We ended up calling another company and we did get oil that same day'

Irving's furnace oil customers across Nova Scotia have taken to social media to voice frustration about scheduled fuel deliveries. (CBC)

Irving home heating oil customers across Nova Scotia have taken to the social media to voice frustration about deliveries.

Some say their oil is coming late, or not at all, and Irving's customer service lines are tied up for hours at a time.

Lisa McKenzie, from Wolfville, said she has elderly neighbours who called to say they didn't think they had any oil. McKenzie checked and they were out.

"So that prompted us to check ours," she said. "And sure enough, we were on empty as well."

McKenzie uses automatic delivery with Irving, a system that uses computer software.

The software considers the size of the home, usage rate and the outside temperature, all to predict a delivery schedule and how much it will cost.

McKenzie has been with Irving for 10 years and said she had no issues. But she's decided to switch companies after not being able to get her scheduled delivery last Thursday and trying for three days to get through on the phone.

"All you get is ringing, it doesn't even go to the answering machine," she said. "We did send an email as well, and we got a response saying that they received the email that somebody would be calling in 24 hours. Nobody did.

"We ended up calling another company and we did get oil that same day — there was actually a person to talk to."

McKenzie has a wood stove. She said she worries about those who rely solely on furnace oil.

James Farquhar, general manager at Scotia Fuels, said his company has picked up some customers due to competitors such as Irving being unable to satisfy customers.

"Mind you, I haven't been able to help everybody, which is painful.… We [Scotia Fuels] really, really want to help people out, but I've got to be mindful of my own staff. It's been a tough winter."

Halifax's Peggy Walt has been with Irving for 20 years.

She said it took her hours last Sunday to get through on the phone. When she did, the representative had no explanation why her automatic delivery didn't arrive.

"The people we spoke to were super friendly and sympathetic, but they just couldn't really tell us anything," Walt said.

She said she considered taking her family to a hotel for the night to keep warm. "Not knowing what was going to happen was frustrating."

Walt ended up getting her oil from Irving on Tuesday.

Irving spokesperson Candice MacLean said the company has a normal supply of heating oil. She said that Irving has faced challenges from the pandemic and the severe winter weather, not unlike other companies.

"This is, at times, resulting in longer wait times for product deliveries," MacLean said in an email.

"We would like to thank our employees for their dedication during this time and our valued customers as we work hard to serve them safely."

Farquhar said diesel can be used if people run out of furnace oil and can't get a delivery.

There are also a number of community-based initiatives to help people pay for home heating such as the Salvation Army's Home Energy Assistance program and the provincial government's heating rebate program.

McKenzie said the most frustrating part of the situation for her was the lack of accountability and communication.

"You've got to open the lines of communication. They need more people … just to let people know that they're being heard and what the situation is and possibly what they can do about it."

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Feleshia Chandler is a journalist based in Halifax. She loves helping people tell their stories and has interests in issues surrounding LGBTQ+ people as well as Black, Indigenous and people of colour. You can reach her at feleshia.chandler@cbc.ca.

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