Jerry Davich: Local couple’s BP bad gas claim sputters to a reimbursement
Jerry Davich firstname.lastname@example.org September 30, 2012 5:54PM
Wendy Patheja, of Valparaiso, with her 2005 Dodge Caravan. Patheja is still waiting to be reimbursed for the $900 she spent for repairs after buying tainted gasoline. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 20, 2013 11:08PM
Jay and Wendy Patheja filled up their Dodge Grand Caravan with BP gas on Aug. 15. The next day, the vehicle sputtered and, the following day, it wouldn’t start.
Like thousands of other motorists during that time frame, their vehicle suffered engine problems from a batch of bad gas that later got recalled by the company.
“The car was towed from our house to a repair shop, where repair costs totaled $915.51,” explained Jay, who lives in Valparaiso.
The couple filed a claim via email on Aug. 21 and received an automated reply stating, “If you wish to supply additional information or check on the status of your inquiry, please reply to this email or contact us via phone.”
A week later, Jay called BP to inquire about the status of their claim.
“I was told they take claims, but they have no information about the status of claims,” he said.
“Also, these BP representatives said they have absolutely no way of getting hold of anyone handling the claim. They said they had no way of getting hold of the people processing claims,” he added.
He was instead told to use the original email address to inquire about the status of his claim. Someone would call him back on Aug. 29 or Aug. 30, he was told.
“I asked him if he had my telephone number. He did not, so I gave it to him even though I provided my telephone number in the original claim,” Jay said.
No one from BP called, and I bet you now see where this column is going.
On Sept. 5, Jay called BP again and he was told the same thing about how they had no idea of the status of the claim and could not find out.
“This person then seemed surprised I would make a claim by email, even though BP provides the email address for making claims,” Jay said. “He offered to resubmit my claim, so I gave him all the information again, including my wife’s name as she is on title.”
The couple then received their third “service request” number, and their second email address for BP with instructions to scan and email the repair bill, credit card bill and car registration. They did so.
“I was told she or I would receive a call about the claim and, if I didn’t receive a call in three business days, to call a different number,” Jay said.
BP did not call back in three business days. Or three weekdays. Or three days of any other kind for that matter.
This time, Wendy called BP and, on Sept. 12, she was told a representative named Duane would call back within 24 hours. Wendy again had to supply their phone number but it didn’t matter. Duane did not call back within 24 hours.
Wendy again called back. She was told that Duane was no longer working with their file, and someone else would call back within 12 hours. A woman named Katie finally called, but asked for all the information again, via fax. Days went by.
“We got no response from BP until Sept. 19, when Katie was nice enough to call us back and let us know she did not get the fax,” Jay said.
A ‘Fixer’ of sorts?
The couple again faxed the info.
“On Sept. 20, Katie called my cell phone to tell me the gas station where we bought the gas is not on the list of identified problem stations. She would have to get approval to pay the claim,” Jay said.
The couple are still waiting on a reply, approval and reimbursement. Or at least an explanation about their claim.
According to the Indiana Attorney General’s office, BP has paid more than $1.5 million in “legitimate” claims, but thousands more are still being processed of the roughly 16,000 claims submitted.
Jay and Wendy figured they were ahead of the curve on this issue.
“When we had the car towed from our garage, no news articles or other information about BP bad gas, to the best of our knowledge, had been released or were otherwise known to us,” Jay said. “I think those articles came out on Aug. 18, the day after service shops got inundated with cars.”
One BP representative tried to defend the company’s delay to Jay by noting the large number of multistate claims. Jay wouldn’t stand for it.
“I told him about the $3 billion BP made in the most recent financial quarter and, if BP wanted enough people to handle all the claims, they could get the people,” he told the man.
“A company making billions of dollars working on a problem for a month can’t track down its own product. I can’t believe they don’t even know where the bad gas went at this time. Seems hard to believe,” he told me.
The last I heard from Jay and Wendy, yet another BP rep told them that their claim is under investigation. They asked for a time frame, and they have not yet received a reply.
“This has been somewhere between offensive and comical,” Jay said.
Surely a member of the media, even me, would have better luck getting an answer, right? I contacted the company early last week.
After hearing back from two other BP media spokesmen about the Patheja’s claim, a spokesman named Scott Dean replied to me on Thursday saying he is looking into this situation.
“I will check with our claims team and get you an answer on status this afternoon,” he said that day.
The next day, I heard back from Dean: “Jerry, we are paying the claim. Normally, claims don’t take this long to process. We apologize for the delay.”
A few minutes later, Jay also contacted me, “BP just called. The check is in the mail.”
The company’s investigation revealed that the gas station the couple bought gas from was also “impacted with non-spec gas.”
“In other words, BP sold us bad gas,” Jay said.
But it took constant vigilance from the couple to get a result in five weeks’ time.
“We got really lucky because we could afford the financial hit and had another car available. I cannot imagine what some other families are going through.”
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