Getting Ripped off at the Gas Pump and Doing Something About It

Getting Ripped off at the Gas Pump and Doing Something About ItIt’s funny how something as simple as purchasing gas can turn into a challenge when the people you are dealing with are unreasonable. This is exactly the situation in which I found myself a few weeks ago when I stopped at our local gas station to fill my tank. As I was trying to use my credit card to make the purchase, a voice from the clerk inside advised me that the credit card readers were not functioning and that I would need to use cash to make my gasoline purchase. As I look back on the situation now, I should have taken my business down the street, but at the time I didn’t believe there would be any problems making a simple purchase using cash.

The gas station also serves as a mini-market, pizza maker, sandwich shop, donut vendor, breakfast burrito distributor, and oh, yes, it sells gas as a way of drawing the public in. As I entered, the clerk asked me how much gas I wanted to buy and I said I wanted to fill it up. She asked me how much I thought the car would need and I gave a guess that about $20 should do just fine. I presented her with a $20 bill and returned to my car and began the refueling process. I was only able to squeeze in $15 worth of gas and I returned inside to the counter to get my $5 change.

This was when the fun and games began. I explained that my tank only took $15 to fill up and I thought I would receive my $5 back. The clerk told me she had no way to confirm that I only took $15 worth of fuel, to which I replied she could come out to the pump and see for herself. She informed me that she was alone and that her assistant was late coming in to the store. She informed me that I would have to see the store manager in the morning and that I would have to return then.

I returned the following morning and the same clerk was present and brought the manager to the counter. I explained the situation and was amazed when the manager told me she had no way to confirm my purchase of only a $15 nor would she return the $5. I asked her if she thought I would be returning if I wasn’t owed what I considered a small sum of money. I also asked if she was calling me a liar and she had no response. I left making a comment that this wasn’t over yet. As I drove home I thought to myself how ridiculous this situation had become over such an insignificant amount, especially since this gas station was a nationally owned company and could well afford a lousy $5.

Upon returning home, I thought I would call the company, but my wife suggested that I wait a day to calm down. Heeding her opinion, I waited until the following day and went to the company’s website in search of a phone number. Instead of calling, I noticed the company had a customer service email for public use. I reiterated everything I mentioned above, left my cellphone number, and requested that I be contacted.

A few hours later I received a phone call from a person who identified themselves as a VP in charge of customer relations. I was informed that the manager of the store was standing by and that she would personally be waiting to return my $5 and offer an apology. In addition, he was emailing me a coupon for a free pizza (I had previously eaten pizzas from there, and they were not a gastronomical delight — a little too greasy for my tastes — and I am a huge fan of Papa Murphy take and bake pizzas) as well as for drinks as a token of the company’s appreciation for doing business at its gas station.

I did return to the station and was given my $5 as well as an apology. I wasn’t gloating in my conquest — in fact, it was a pain having to go through all of the hoops for five bucks.

So what did I learn from this experience? To me it was more convenient to send an email for two reasons:

  • The email provided me with proof that I had contacted the company.
  • By emailing I was able to keep my emotions and anger in check.

I also learned that big companies will listen to customers who feel they have received poor customer service on the local level.

Comments welcome.

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by Sean Hackbarth

Why Boycotting BP May Backfire

If you think by not buying your gas from a BP station you will hurt the company, you may wish to reconsider your actions. It seems that BP stations, which are privately owned, may be using gasoline from a different company. In fact, it may not even be known by the station owner — his employees, or anyone else, if in fact that tanker full of gas is the real BP stuff or not. It seems that after a truck tanker is filled with gasoline, the secret BP additives may be added. In a recent NY Times article it also stated that:

Meanwhile, if you pass by a BP station and burn some fossil fuels driving down the road to fill up elsewhere, you may end up at a retailer that gets all of its gasoline from BP. The retailer won’t tell you that though.And the people who work at the gas station probably don’t know either.

But it was the last part of the article and also one of the comments that hit my funny bone:

Boycotting is easy. That’s why so many people like to do it. Lowering demand for fuel, thereby delivering a true blow to big oil for those who are so inclined, is much harder. It requires sacrifice. Colder homes and offices. Driving more slowly. Buying a smaller car. Avoiding or delaying a move to the suburbs that necessitates more hours behind the wheel.

At least that’s how I see it. How about you?

Here was the comment:

I think if it were up to you, we’d all be living in huts and rubbing sticks together for fire.

Now you have to admit, that’s funny!

Comments welcome.

Source – NY Times

In April Gas To Drop To $1.95 A Gallon – Why Will This Happen?

Over at BusinessWeek their analysis is that gas may fall to $1.95 a gallon some time in April. My question is why? Are people still being allowed to buy oil futures? Are we consumers still being gouged by the idiots who make money by controlling our gas prices?

In a recent article it states that:

The April contract formed a so-called hanging man formation, signaling a rally from early February has lost momentum and prices will head lower, according to Bill Adams, an energy trader at ACT, a currency and commodity specialist in Zurich.

Can someone explain to me why our energy is being allowed to be traded? Or our food?

Comments welcome.


Find Cheap Gasoline, Wireless & Credit Cards In Your Area

There is a new kid in Silicon Valley called BillShrink which is offering a free service, that they claim will help us save money. The site currently provides information covering the cost of gasoline, wireless plans and credit cards where you live. In order to participate in the free service you need to register and provide a valid email address. To find cheap gas you also need to enter in a home and work address. If you are skeptical about giving out this information than this site is not for you.

On their site BullShrink states the following about itself:

It is. Absolutely free. Billshrink created the technology to collect and present unbiased, comprehensive information so you can see for yourself which options are best for you and why. We rank plans only by the parameters most people care most about – the total cost and the match to your individual needs. And, we always allow you to see how we calculate each recommendation. Just look for the question mark icons.

BillShrink returns exactly the information available on your service providers’ site and others — so you can compare apples-to-apples. Did you know there are over 10 million cell phone plan and add-on combinations? Or, that every credit card has over 100 meaningful variables? We’re obsessed with tracking all the details about everyday services, every minute of every day – so you don’t have to.

BillShrink understands that service providers have no incentive to help you save, but we do. BillShrink is interested in the total cost of a service Ð with all the hidden fees, add-ons, and promotional benefits. Any one of these variables may be relevant to you and may save you money.

There is more information about BillShrink on their site. Take a look and see what you think.

Comments welcome.


Give That Drunk More Booze

If you want to lull a drunk into thinking you are his friend, give him more booze. So as we in the world continue to drink more oil at an alarming rate, the oil pimps in the middle east are giving us more to drink.

As with any drunk, the only one who can help them is the drunk themselves. For over 30 years we in America have sat on our hands doing little to wean our appetites for the black gold of the earth. Just when we see that our auto companies are starting to take the oil crisis serious and start to produce alternative fueled and hybrid vehicles, the bartenders in the middle east decide to buy the house a round of drinks.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto praised the step. “Any increase in production in today’s oil market is welcome,” Fratto. “It is important that we also take steps to increase domestic production and our refining capacity.”

Al-Naimi also said the Saudi government will invest in oil projects that would allow Saudi Arabia to have the capacity to produce 12.5 million barrels per day by the end of next year.

King Abdullah’s announcement came at the end of the Jeddah energy summit, where he also called for OPEC to set aside $1 billion for a strategy to ease the oil price crisis. He said $500 million should be given to developing nations to help them get the energy they need.

You have to love statements like this:

“It is important that we also take steps to increase domestic production and our refining capacity.”

No Duh, dude!

How about this one:

Saudi Arabia to have the capacity to produce 12.5 million barrels per day by the end of next year.

Of course. The last thing they want to see is for us to switch to another fuel. Their hope is that we will abandon our research into electric, hydrogen, hybrids or any alternatives to gasoline. [See LS9 below.]

Are we going to be lulled into another stupor? If gas prices fall a few pennies will we consider this a deal and abandon our efforts to curb our drinking?

Comments welcome.


PS Or is LS9 going to be the answer?  LS9 here.

Electric Or Hydrogen Vehicles – Which Do You Prefer?

I know most of us are in ‘shock and awe’ at the high price of gasoline we have been experiencing these past few months or so. Plus I know none of us realized that foreign oil had us in a strangle hold, because obviously we would of done something about it. As we have sat on our hands for some 30 years, oblivious to what was happening and content on purchasing huge SUV’s with big V-8’s, I believe it is time for America to wake up and finally take a look at who is to blame for the oil crisis. All one has to do is to look in the mirror.

We have allowed ourselves to be lulled by our politicians into believing that Washington is working on a solution. When in reality big oil and the American car companies have control on the type of cars we will drive and what fuels they will use. No one can disagree with the fact that the gasoline engine is the most inefficient means of moving a vehicle and that some alternative is needed. The current administration took a path of ethanol from corn and the increased use of diesel as the way to solve the problem. A blind man can see using a food source is akin to throwing a drowning man an anchor. I also don’t believe that anyone would think that diesel, though producing better mileage, is environmentally friendly.

So we now have two other concepts that are being considered by the automobile industries. GM is leading the way in their quest for an all electric car. Known as the Volt, GM projects this futuristic vehicle will be coming to town sometime in 2010. There is only one, maybe two, minor issues. GM admits that battery technology needs to be improved. The second is, what do you do with all of those batteries once they are used?

Over at Toyota and Honda, they are looking into hydrogen technology. Using something called a fuel cell, the concept promises a non-polluting vehicle that produces only water. But the Honda vehicles use natural gas to produce hydrogen which is stored in the cell, and the vehicle uses an electric motor, which uses batteries also to store the juice.

So my question is this. Are either electric or hydrogen vehicles the way to solve our current predicament?  What do you think?

Comments welcome.

Fuel cell source.

GM electric source.

What can You Do About High Gas Prices?

According to A.F. Alhajji, an energy economy expert and associate professor at Ohio Northern University, gas prices could hit $4.50 a gallon if we experience a severe hurricane season and a heat wave in the Gulf region during the 2008 summer season. .

Why is this happening? First of all it is important to understand that this is not a new phenomenon. It has been guillotine waiting to fall since the gas crisis back in the mid seventies when those of us who are older remember sitting in long lines on even/odd days to refuel our vehicles. More recently, one can look to the spring of 2004 where you will see that was when gas prices first skyrocketed and never went back down. At the time the rise was blamed on the Iraq War machine or on oil companies gouging the public to increase their bottom line. However, those were just a couple of things that were at fault.

In fact, oil companies like the rest of us are at the mercy of OPEC and have little control over the price of oil but before you decide that war against the Middle East is the only answer you must understand that even OPEC has no control over supply and demand. Demand plays a major factor for everyone involved in producing oil and when it is high the price goes up. Here’s the relationship between oil and gas prices. Generally, for every dollar increase in oil prices, gas prices increase by 2.4 cents. If oil rises $10 dollars, consumers will pay 24 cents more at the pump.

One reason that the price has risen with the growing demand is that crude oil itself is getting trickier to access because the regions where it is available, like Nigeria, Iran, and Iraq, are increasingly unstable. This makes it more difficult for oil producing countries to fulfill the needs of an oil-hungry world who not only want fuel for their vehicles but to keep their industries producing all the goods that consumers demand.

What one might not realize, however, is that while oil itself is pricey refining the crude to a usable state adds more than 50% to the cost. For the U.S. this is even more costly as we do less of our own refining than other countries do. In the last few years President Bush has asked the Saudi King to produce more oil and his response was that he would gladly sell us as much oil as we wanted but it would not do us any good since we lacked the refineries to process more than we were already receiving. The reason for our lack of refineries is in part due to increasingly stricter EPA regulations that have made oil refining more costly and thus less profitable for the big oil companies to do it stateside. This along with the problems they encounter as the result of natural disasters such as hurricanes Rita and Katrina from which the oil industry still hasn’t recovered has made the refining process more tricky.

So what can you do to save a few bucks when you fill up your car? Well, the first step is fairly obvious, drive a 4 cylinder car instead of a larger one. This is bound to save you money on gas. Next buy the lowest grade of oil available. For most cars the difference between grades is relatively insignificant and will not affect the way your car runs. In our area we have a gas station that sells premium for the same price as the regular octane so look around and you might find the same type of station where you live.

Once you have filled your car you can also save gas if you drive slower. The EPA estimates that for every 5 miles per hour over 60 that you drive, you burn about 20 cents more gas. Also while driving under 60 mph make sure that your car is in high gear because the slower your engine turns over, the less gas you’re using. Increase the efficiency by avoiding accelerating quickly and coasting whenever possible.

 Next drive less. According to CNN Money, this is already being accomplished through the rise in fuel costs as Americans drove an unbelievable 11 billion miles less in March of this year than they did in the same month a year ago. Another money saver is to avoid excessive idling. If you are in line at a road repair or a fast food restaurant that is not so fast shut off your engine until you are able to move.

Lastly, you should try to take advantage of companies, like auto dealers or credit card companies who are trying gas promotions to get you to spend money. To find out who’s participating, check out Plus, hotels like Mariott and Hilton are offering gas cards if you book with them.

In Minnesota there is even a company called First Fuel Bank that allows you to lock in gas prices. To participate you actually pay for the amount of gas you want prior to needing it. Example: you pay for $500 worth of gas at $3.00 a gallon and whenever you fill up you get the gas for that price until you have depleted your account. Then you have to start over but in the meantime you could save a lot of money.

I hope that this information will be helpful to you. If I discover other clues as to how to save money on fuel costs I will update you with another article.

What Are You Paying For A Gallon Of Gas These Days?

My eyes almost popped out like a Tex Avery cartoon last weekend when we passed a pair of gas stations out on the highway selling regular for under two bucks per gallon. The magical psychological price point was shattered, with both stations at $1.98. Here we are, a week or so past Election Day, and The Associated Press reports that U.S. retail gas prices rise slightly, just in time for the big Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Imagine that.

I always give thanks that we never have the need to travel far for Thanksgiving. The extra pinch at the pump is especially unwelcome at holiday time. According to that AP story, we’re lucky to be stuck in the swamps of Jersey, as the price for regular-grade gasoline is roughly a quarter below the national average. (You just have to know where to fill up… the difference in gas prices from one side of town to the other is non-trivial.)

Seeing that I won’t be spending hours on the road, I’m hoping to spend some time this weekend updating my page that lists cars that get great gas mileage… in between the leftovers and football games, of course.

I’m expecting heating oil prices to rise, as well. I waited until the last possible day to get our tank filled last month. This saved us a couple of hundred bucks, as the price dropped dramatically from the end of the heating oil season last spring.

Timing is everything…

[tags]gasoline, gas prices, heating oil, Thanksgiving, high MPG cars[/tags]

Driving A Hybrid

I couldn’t let this bit of feedback slip past your radar. With gas prices being what they are here in the States, we’re all having to take a more serious look at our personal transportation options. Are hybrids or diesels in your future? Before you leap, you’d better look. Let Lockergnomie Pete Pontius be your guide. Print or save his bits of wisdom on your impending choices. Let me put it to you this way: if you don’t think this bit of technology doesn’t pertain to you, you’re not living on this planet.

I think I can give you a fair view of both diesels and hybrids, as I have owned both. One of my previous cars was a ’96 VW Passat TDI. I bought it used (of course) with about 125,000 miles in Philadelphia, PA (I live in Central IL). I flew out to Philly in February of 2004 and drove it back by myself. On the way back, I generally drove at a cruising speed of 75mph – 80mph and achieved 42 – 44mpg. I drove the car for most of the year, and then sold it out of stupidity.

In December of 2004, after trying to find a newer (used) VW diesel, I purchased a 2001 Honda Insight hybrid, which was the first commercially available hybrid for the U.S. market. In my usage, which is mostly highway miles due to my work (sales), I generally got between 50 – 55mpg depending on several factors – temperature, wind conditions (light small car), and how in a hurry I was that day. I have been trying to sell the Insight as it is not very comfortable for as much driving as I do. It’s already been replaced by another VW – this time, one of the new GTIs. Had the new Golf (now Rabbits again) been out in a diesel, I would have bought one of those.

I also used to sell VWs in my previous career. I worked for a VW dealer here in central Illinois for 5.5 years. I sold a lot of VW diesels in that time. The VWs are solid cars. They are fun to drive, and can be an addiction having owned, at last count, seven, not including all of the Audis (sister company).
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Diesel, Gas, or Hybrid?

Based on our Volkswagen TDIs article the other day, we had a few diesel fans submit their feedback. Here’s a few of the more interesting Gnomie stories:

Gabor Kovacs: In Hungary, we already have a law PROHIBITING biodiesel! Smart guys discovered about a year ago that common household corn oil (used for frying food) is as good as diesel oil – but costs about 10% less! This is because in diesel fuel, there are a lot of state taxes, higher VAT, etc. – while household cooking oil has a “normal” price. There is no difference, except only the smell (which is better than diesel). So, because the state lost a lot of revenue, a law was introduced prohibiting corn oil. The police started sniffing around diesel cars (literally). But, many people were interviewed at that time and 99% said that their car (any car) ran better on corn oil than diesel! Funny, isn’t it? Instead of promoting it, the state prohibits biodiesel – otherwise they can’t fill their pockets.

Jos: This is a great link for TDIs. I have been a VW diesel fan since I was 15 and have owned 4 of them – from the Rabbit to my Passat (and all being diesel). I’m currently running B100 that a friend of mine makes from fryer oil he gets from local restaurants.
Continue reading “Diesel, Gas, or Hybrid?”