Two Milwaukee, Wis., gas station owners have stopped selling fuel at their stations. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online, the two owners pointed to the high prices they have to pay and fees from credit card companies.
After 20 years in the business, Jeff Curro has had enough. The cost of the gas he bought for his Shell station on Friday was $3.44. Competing stations were selling gas for $3.47. “Three cents a gallon doesn’t cut it,” the Journal Sentinel quoted him as saying. “It doesn’t pay the bills.”
The cost of the gas is just part of the problem. When customers use credit cards, Curro loses money, because of the average fee of 2.75% that the credit card companies receive when their cards are used. According to the National Association of Convenience Stores, credit card fees are the “second-biggest expense for gas station owners,” reports the Journal Sentinel. Add it all up and Curro says he can’t afford to sell gas. He sums up the situation in these words: “The way I see it is, I’m doing all the work of providing the labor, the wages, the electricity, the lighting, the maintenance of the pumps, the repairs and the insurance, which is quite substantial,” Curro said. “I’m doing all the work, and somebody else is getting fat on me.”
Another Shell station owner, Casey O’Gorman, found himself in the same situation. He, too, can’t afford to sell gas. He will now concentrate on car repairs.
According to the Journal Sentinel, Curro and O’Gorman are among a small number of service station owners who both sell gas and do car repairs. Not only has selling gas become a problem; such stations are also facing competition from car dealerships and from the quick lube shops.
The situation of Curro and O’Gorman highlights a nationwide problem: the profit squeeze on station owners and the disgust of consumers at high prices. Added to the mix is the feeling on the part of consumers that when gas prices are high, the station owners are getting higher profits. That’s not true, according to Bob Bartlett, executive vice president of the Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Stores Association. When you combine wholesale prices for the fuel with the taxes and transportation costs, there is virtually room for profit. “People are upset about oil and gas prices,” Bartlett told the Journal Sentinel, “but it’s not [the independent gas station owner]. He’s not OPEC. He’s not refining it. He’s buying it kind of like I am, right at the end of the line here.