Can you say gouging?

Published 9:48 pm Thursday, September 18, 2008

An amazing thing happened this past Friday. Hurricane Ike came ashore in Texas and many of the gas companies and filling stations in the Suffolk area saw their opportunity to get a pay raise just in time for the upcoming Christmas season. Reports of the damage had not even begun to come in for the storm was just coming ashore, but the speculators were already busy burning the midnight oil on how they could sock it to us; case in point. When I drove into work Friday morning at 5:30AM the price of gas along Hwy 58 between Franklin and Suffolk was between $3.39 and $3.49 a gallon. While on my way home at 4:30PM it was the same for the most part but the lines were starting to form a little. Anyway, I pulled into a station and filled my tank as I traditionally do on Friday afternoons. As I was pumping my gas the owner of the station pulled up, with family in tow, and promptly upped the price for every grade by 30 cents a gallon. Needless to say I was a little perturbed for I had not witnessed a delivery while I was there, therefore the cost of the gas coming out of their tanks did not instantaneously increase. As I walked in to pay, I saw the owner hurriedly changing the prices in the computer that controls the prices on the pumps. When I asked if I was going to be “Gouged” for the upswing in price the salesperson at the register told me that I was fine. However the owner’s wife, who was doing something behind the counter, was a little miffed that I had chosen that specific word and quickly informed me that they were not gouging anyone!

I responded to her that I found that hard to believe as there had not been a delivery while I was there so their costs had not increased and yet the price had risen by 30 cents. Needless to say she did not respond, which may have been due to the dirty look that her husband was giving her.

Over the weekend that same station, along with its sister station, went from $3.49 / gallon regular, to $3.79 / gallon regular on Friday afternoon, to $4.09 / gallon regular on Sunday morning. Preliminary reports that came out of Houston, Texas during this same time frame have stated that the many refineries in the area did not receive as much damage as feared. Yet, gas prices are again going through the roof Katrina style. I smell gouging. Now I do not want it to sound like that I am picking on just this one small chain of gas stations for a very similar event occurred at many of the local gas stations. I say many and not all for there were a few who while they did raise their prices, they did not go to the extremes. However those numbers are very few and can be counted on one hand with several fingers remaining.

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I wonder what the price of gas will be on my way home today. Oh by the way did I mention that the price of oil dropped again today and that the refinery owners have officially reported that the damage to the refineries and pipelines is nowhere close to Katrina levels? Needless to say I will not be frequenting those establishments that chose to take advantage of this situation. I hope that the rest of the community will do so also for we all know who the guilty are. Additionally I hope that officials will get off their duffs and address this problem for I thought that it is illegal. I will be more that happy to share with them what I witnessed.