Monday, May 29, 2006

Sold petrol

Dear American gasoline consumer,

I write this open letter on behalf of all the gasoline retailers out there. As a former station operator who escaped the business a few years ago, I am offended by the behavior of some of you. With the summer season upon us, it's time you learned a few things.

You have a right to complain about escalating gas prices. Also, I realize that, to you, the retail attendant is the most available representative of the oil industry. So it's easy to share your grief. But do you believe that's going to help? At best, the clerks at the counter will be sympathetic, and that's only if they aren't tired of hearing the customers complain.

Whining is one thing. Gas rage is quite another. Taking out your anger against the gas station attendants? Driving off without paying? Are you serious?

Let me try to explain this so that your tiny brain can understand. There is no relation between Big Oil and your local retailer. There are several points of distribution in between, so prices are high before gasoline gets to the retail level. The oil industry is greedy and shameless. Your local retailer is not; it ekes out pennies of profit per gallon, even less if purchased by credit card.

These stations make money from the sales of merchandise inside the store. Gasoline is essentially a loss leader. So when you drive off without paying, you've probably cost your local retailer an entire shift's worth of profit. Congratulations.

If you are upset about gas prices -- and you should be -- complain to Big Oil. Write each company. Ask your state government for amnesty on gasoline taxes. Demand that the federal government provide better oversight of vulnerable Gulf Coast refineries. Make the discussion of fuel alternatives a little less unpopular. Find out where the candidates stand before you vote in 2006 and 2008. But don't take it out on the gas station owner.

By the way, how many gallons did it take to fill up your car? 12? 15? 20, maybe? Your local retailer just bought 10,000 gallons. So keep that in mind, pay the clerk, and shut the hell up.


Neel Mehta

1 comment:

Absent-minded Secretary said...

Nodding furiously in agreement!