Melissa Hostetler is a Miles Petroleum customer. She buys fuel oil from the company to heat her home during winter. She pre-paid for 500 gallons of oil from the business in April at a cost of $1,762. Last week she got a letter in the mail from Miles Petroleum that the company had closed. There was no refund check for the pre-paid oil.
"I was shocked. This was not anything I expected at all. I just don't understand how you can do this to people and not give anybody any additional information," Hostetler said.
Hostetler is one of many customers who pre-paid more than $1,700 to participate in what the company calls the pre-buy price protection program. Judy Magyar was another.
"When I first got the letter, my thoughts went to 'OK, what about our money?' I want some answers," Magyar said.
She called the company to find out what was going on, but didn't get anywhere.
"So I decided after I thought about it a little bit to call TV 5," Magyar said.
Hostetler reached out to WNEM as well. They both appealed to us to ask the tough questions and get some answers. We went to Miles Petroleum in Merrill to try to get those answers. But when we knocked on the door no one answered, and all that was left was a sign that said closed for business. So we looked around town and after some investigating we found company president Barry Marlow.
"I'm sorry that they had to find out from a letter in the mail. And I wasn't able to give them anymore warning than we we're able to give them. Other than that I really can't say anything else, unfortunately," Marlow said.
We asked Marlow about his customers' money. He said it was uncertain if anyone who pre-paid would see their money again.
"I can't make any promises that I don't know. I don't know how things are going to shake out at this point," Marlow said.
Marlow calls his customers his friends. He says he's fallen on hard economic times. He said he never imagined he'd be in this position where his family would be struggling to make ends meet. And he feels awful that many of his customers are, at least for now, out more than $1,700.
"My wife and I are devastated with how everything came down," Marlow said.
Meanwhile Magyar and Hostetler say they'll take legal action.
"That's money we're never going to see again if we don't pursue it," Hostetler said.
Both Hostetler and Magyar say they have the money to heat their homes this winter but they worry about those who can't afford to write another check for fuel.
"These people work hard and they need that money and going out to find another provider is not an option when you don't have the cash to pay for it," Magyar said.
Copyright 2013 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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