Gas Station Owner Raises Prices in Protest
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Consumer spending may slow down, though, this summer if gas prices stay above three dollars a gallon. In San Francisco, the sign outside a certain Shell station has read $4.43 per gallon for the last month. That is 79 cents more than the average price in the area. The station owner, Bob Oyster, raised his prices in protest. And today, he's shutting the station down altogether.
NPR's Miranda Kennedy explains.
MIRANDA KENNEDY: Bob Oyster has been running the gas station at Sixth and Harrison for over 20 years. But he says even though customers think he's getting rich these days, retailers like him actually lose money when the street price of gas goes up.
A month ago, Shell raised his rent, so he says he can't even make a profit anymore unless he charges way more than the consumer is willing to pay.
Mr. DENNIS DeCOTA (Executive Director, California Service Station and Automotive Repair Station): So what Bob has taken and done is made a public statement, you know, that the oil companies are ripping him off and they're ripping them off, the consumer.
KENNEDY: That's Dennis DeCota, head of a California State Industry Group. He recently testified at a congressional hearing that retailers are getting squeezed by oil companies and have to rely on convenience store sales to make ends meet.
Shell has another perspective. From the moment Oyster raised his price a month ago, Shell spokesperson Bill Spurgeon has been trying to spread the word that $4.43 isn't Shell's price.
Mr. BILL SPURGEON (Shell Spokesman): I think unfortunately what Mr. Oyster has elected to do is take advantage of the public in an unfortunate way that doesn't reflect well on him or on the thousands of Shell stations across the country that are dealing with similar issues.
KENNEDY: Oyster says he wasn't even trying to stay in business. He was charging what he calls a ridiculous price as an act of protest. He was surprised when some of his loyal customers kept buying from him this month. But even at almost a buck more a gallon, he couldn't sell enough to make a profit.
Miranda Kennedy, NPR News.
INSKEEP: Charging what the traffic will bear.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.