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mbumby
Almost Fooled Me! 
10th-Jun-2008 10:16 am
car
Let me begin by saying that I am all for gas stations charging less money for fuel purchased with cash. As a consumer I have the choice of the convenience of the credit card or the economy of the cash transaction.


The Marathon gas station nearest the house can have $0.15/gallon price-swings overnight. In either direction. About a mile north, there's another Marathon station and a BP station. And they are *always* not-more-expensive than the one nearest the house. (And as a consumer I can choose to go out of my way for a probable economy or stop on my way home for the convenience.)

On the way to work this morning I had "light". $4.099 at the nearby Marathon. I decided I'd check out the pair north of the highway. When I looked at the signs (they're "always" the same price) I saw $4.059. Cool. I pulled into the BP, because, regardless of politics, that one is the best situated for pulling out of. I parked at a pump, fed in my credit card, went to push the button on the left, saw $4.139. Wondered if they had moved the cheap gas to a different pump, but that was the cheapest gas. Looked at the sign. $4.059 = CASH price, $4.139 is credit. Looked at the Marathon across the street. Their sign just said $4.059, so I hit cancel on the pump, drove across the street, used my credit card, and paid $4.059.

Heard about trouble on the freeway, so I took Washtenaw in. There are 2 BP stations within a block of each other, one of which is "always" cheaper (sometimes by more than a dime) than the other. The cheap one was $3.999. Oh well. It was on the wrong side of the street anyhow.

The Marathon at Arborland, which has a "Cash" price that is usually pretty darned good was charging $4.099.

Comments 
10th-Jun-2008 02:50 pm (UTC)
I, too, dislike when gas stations make it confusing. Just last week I did something similar. The station sign said, I think, $3.59/gal, one of the cheapest I'd seen. I pumped first, but while I was already pumping noticed it was saying $3.99/gal. I went inside to pay and asked about it. He said he was giving me extra change back for paying cash.
10th-Jun-2008 05:06 pm (UTC)
Yow! I don't think I've ever seen more than $0.20 difference between the cash and the credit price, and usually not that much. Glad you weren't on the "Being burned" end of that one.
10th-Jun-2008 06:02 pm (UTC)
Yes, I was shocked at the difference. It might have been a Marathon, I already forget. I was driving around Westland/Garden City headed for a Firebird that, the day before, was about $3.93/gal. I saw the $3.95 and decided the .02/gal was what I'd use to get to the Firebird since I couldn't afford more than a few gallons. All other gas stations were also $3.95 or $3.99/gal so I wasn't as upset when I thought I was paying $3.99/gal, I just figured the sign was wrong. I would have been more upset if I had used a credit card.
10th-Jun-2008 04:46 pm (UTC)
I haven't seen that at a gas station yet, but I was in a restaurant two weeks ago that offered 20% off for cash. My assumption was that the owner was not reporting the cash sales. That is hard to do in a gas station. Perhaps it is the credit card fees that they are trying to discourage. (The payroll cost for the station is the same - they are paying someone to stand at the register whether you pay at the pump or walk in.)

Personally I still find it worthwhile to pay at the pump. It is worth seventy cents to me not to have to go into the building.
10th-Jun-2008 05:14 pm (UTC)
I had assumed that it was indeed the fees they're trying to discourage. It's not rare (although becoming rarer) that a restaurant will take visa but not Discover (or Amex, I think) because of the fees involved. Hadn't considered the under-the-table nature of cash transactions. (I'd better watch it or I'll lose my cynics license!)

Recently I made the decision to fill at Station B using a credit card even though it cost (I think only 0.03) more than Station A's cash price -- but jeepers! The two stations are right across the street from each other. I'm guessing the BP is counting on people not noticing that there are strings attached to its price. If the credit price were the same I'd still prefer to shop there vs. the Marathon, but between the Marathon accepting credit at that same price, and the BP's underlying "are you hoping I'm stupid?" I'll look more carefully the next time I need to fill up.
10th-Jun-2008 06:10 pm (UTC) - Don't leave home without surfing to . . .
I have become really dependent on http://www.columbusgasprices.com/ ,
my local version of gasbuddy.com.

When I go to Ann Arbor, I use http://www.detroitgasprices.com/ and then scroll a pane or two down the left hand side to select for A-squared.

They haven't yet come up with a seamless modus operandus to deal with cash versus credit, but sometime the spotter posting it will try and list it.
10th-Jun-2008 10:00 pm (UTC) - Re: Don't leave home without surfing to . . .
Good idea... but when I'm groggy in the morning, tight on time, hadn't seen light the night before, and am already in the car... But yeah, it's a very good idea and I should do it more often. Thanks.
10th-Jun-2008 09:25 pm (UTC)
When a station charges more to use a credit card, it seems like additional usuary, excess cost of credit. With the cost of a fill-up these days, I finally started using the credit card for gas, as that means I don't have to go and retrieve more cash at some other time.

I thought Michigan had that 'price on the pump must be the price on the sign'?
10th-Jun-2008 10:06 pm (UTC)
The sign, when I looked at it more closely, clearly said "cash price = ..." and "credit price = ..." -- not the way the sign had appeared the last time I'd filled up there.

I've been doing pay at the pump for the convenience for YEARS (I remember first seeing it on the PA TP, dunno, 17 years back?) ... and my AAA card giving me a specific discount just for using that card to get gas is added incentive.

When I was off near Detroit recently, in a pretty scummy section of town, I was startled to find a pump that didn't have a card reader. When I went inside and the guy pointed at the "cash only" sign, I decided to heck with it and drove off. I'm much happier not having to walk away from my car, and not having to deal with standing in line. But, I have my price, and it seems we're going to find out what it is.
11th-Jun-2008 12:47 am (UTC) - Thanks for the warning!
Forewarned, I saw the posted prices and the cash and credit markings. This is the second SEMI BP to change to posting a separate cash price in the last month. I hope it is not a trend.
12th-Jun-2008 03:52 am (UTC)
I was under the impression that offering one price for cash and another for credit was a violation of the agreement between the CC company and the companies contracting to allow their customers to use a CC. Personally I've never used a CC to buy gas, but I do usually use my debit card.

12th-Jun-2008 06:00 pm (UTC)
I hadn't considered that. Know zippo about the contractual agreements. I've been told that the businesses that refuse to allow a credit card to be used for charges under $10 are in violation as well ... but I guess that is, to me, also a reasonable restriction so it doesn't bother me.
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