Customers stall trying to reach BP over bad gasoline

2012-08-21T19:30:00Z 2012-08-29T19:20:04Z Customers stall trying to reach BP over bad gasolineBy Bowdeya Tweh bowdeya.tweh@nwi.com, (219) 933-3316 nwitimes.com

Hundreds of frustrated and concerned customers flooded BP customer service phone lines Tuesday following a recall of gasoline the company initiated Monday.

Several people told The Times wait times were longer than two hours Tuesday morning if they were able to get through to a representative at all. And a handful of people interviewed who did speak to company personnel weren't happy with the result.

Oil refining giant BP said Tuesday it is continuing to recall gasoline not meeting specifications shipped to Northwest Indiana fuel distributors and also work with customers whose cars have required repairs.

In a statement issued Tuesday, BP said it believes a 50,000-barrel batch of regular grade gasoline blended at its Whiting fuel storage terminal between Aug. 13 and Friday contained a higher than normal level of polymeric residue, which are larger hydrocarbon molecules that can clog fuel injectors and foul spark plugs. Resulting problems the company identified were hard stalling, stopping and other driving issues.

"BP is not making it easy for us to receive compensation for their error," Crown Point resident Elizabeth Paul said about the claims process.

Paul said she has spent $359.52 for a vehicle inspection, fuel system cleaning and tune-up and $40 for a rental car. She told The Times that after spending about two hours and 15 minutes on hold with BP customer service, she was ticked off that she'd have to call back to let them know when she sends her claim information. 

Pat Cappo, of Munster, said the BP hotline had a wait time of 100 minutes when she called before 7 a.m.

But Cappo said she bought regular gasoline Thursday from a Meijer station in Highland and her vehicle began to have problems starting up Saturday, Sunday and Monday after the vehicle was left parked overnight. On Tuesday, she reached out to Meijer's customer service department and got a message from its online service center that her issue would be reviewed. 

While waiting for a response, a mechanic told her to add fuel injector cleaner to the vehicle and run the bad gas in the vehicle down to empty then add a tank full of higher grade gas.

Other people, including Andrew Johnsen, of Cedar Lake, said he called customer service lines at BP and Thorntons on Tuesday, but each one said the other should be handling his vehicle repair claim.

Angela Pinta learned about the gasoline issues the hard way after she struggled to start her car Friday morning after receiving an emergency call from her hospital employer. Pinta, who works on-call as a surgical nurse and lives in Gary's Miller section, said she wishes she didn't have to worry about whether her car will start every morning. But for now, she's waiting to clear out the $75 in gasoline she bought for her Ford Explorer from a Mr. Fuel station in Gary.

"There are people that need reliable cars like myself," Pinta said.

In statements to media, BP reiterated the apology it made Monday for the inconvenience caused for customers and that it was working with customers who loaded tanker trucks at the terminal during the period of interest. It pledged to replace the contaminated fuel with fresh product.

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