If there is one complaint that we all have heard at some point, it will be about prices of fuels that permeate our lives. In particular gasoline/diesel.
I used to have to deal with this on an almost daily basis, though employment at a gas bar. The station was affiliated with a national company which was notorious for raising the price ahead of the pack, at the most convenient of times. Think 6pm on the Friday of a long weekend (usually in the summer months), when the masses are headed to destinations out of town.
This presented me with an interesting situation, both in the moment, and in general.
In the moment, it would be irritating, and add to an already stressful situation. At the gas bar I was employed at, I was a one man show from pretty much 4pm right to close at 11pm. Every 2ed day we would have a fellow come in at 8 to clean the carwash pit, but other then that, I was alone. In the c-store and gas bar industry, the majority of your sales happens in the supper hours, just after everyone comes off work (between 5 and 7pm for the most part). That is when everyone needs gas, and wants to wash their vehicles. And this is particularly true on weekends AND long weekends, as everyone is preparing for their weekend plans.
Now, in an ideal world, this set up is just fine. If you can overlook customer ignorance and do not need to go to the bathroom (take a dump) during the busy period, than you are alright. But being reality (Murphy’s law?), things do not always run smoothly.
Having an automatic car wash is a good thing, except it is prone to malefaction both due to mechanical issues (the thing is at least 20 years old), and user problems. This would normally be a small problem, but when you are alone in a store full of customers, AND the car wash breaks down, the nerves fray VERY quickly.
Every customer is important, and wants to be the #1 priority. The people in the store want to make their purchase and get on with their lives, so one does not want to make them wait (not to mention the security risk in doing so). Yet the person stuck in the carwash wants to get on with their lives TO, and does not want to wait.
Its hard to be the person stuck in the middle, in the modern society that we live in (which is a part of the reason I resent western culture so much).
Now those situations are complex enough. But when the head office of the company sends a price change down the line RIGHT in the middle of the busy period, this can be just as bad. The proper procedure is to activate the prices (and send to pumps) IMMEDIATLY, but that is also problematic.
For one, my store is full of paying customers that need to be taken care of. I do not have time to run to the back room, make the adjustments to the big sign, and then check that it showed up correctly. AND THEN, there is the people waiting in line to GET fuel (on those busy pre long weekend days). Its unfair to them that they pulled in to see one price, only to have it spike 2 minutes later.In the end I just said to hell with it, and let EVERYONE in my lot have the “old” price, until the majority of the crowd was cleared.
On top of this bullshit, the company I worked for was ALL about upselling. We had a nightly “quota” to fill of reward cards, specials etc. One did earn “bonus’s” with the more products/cards they pushed, but it was an unwritten mandatory rule. It was an incentive, but it was necessary, or you would have your job threatened. Hell, the culture within the company from the top down, was pretty much “fix this, or your job is on the line”.
It was that contempt, that drove me away, after sticking it out WAY longer then I should have (for my mental sanity). Ironically enough, a big reason I grew so much resentment, was the BP oil leak disaster.
As I grew to know more about the disaster (and my fear of an apocalypse driven by the said disaster waned), I begun to have more and more resentment, towards the oil industry. Keep in mind, I did not work for BP (they do not have a presence in the Canadian service station market), but I realized that all these companies, are basically the same.
Down south, when BP started getting its squeaky clean image tarnished by the Deepwater Horizon mess, for all intents and purposes, it was not the company as a whole that suffered the most. It was the little guys, the owners of its network of service stations, that took the biggest hit.
Having talked with both owners of the gas bar that I worked in, I knew that when it comes to revenues from fuel, the owner(s) get FUCK ALL. The owner may cut 1% (if even) of that profit, the vast majority of that cash is sucked out, and ends up in the company bank account. The owners have to make their money off of the car wash (a percentage of profits anyway) and (mostly) c-store sales.
It is for this reason, I had to feel bad about the amount of BP stations across the US that closed, due to the fall of the brand. I don’t give a shit about the companies losses, its all the owners that I feel bad for. I can sympathize with the public for giving the brand a wide berth, but only to a certain point. Because while that action did a bit of minor damage to BP America, it shit kicked who knows how many local business owners (and left who knows how many people working for them, jobless).
They didn’t cause the disaster. All they did was affiliate with the wrong brand. And judging from the response to the spill by the industry (the lack of technology to deal with it), it could just as easily have been ANY of the other companies/brands in BP’s place.
Going back to my previous employment, I grew really irritated by this business relationship between owners and the head companies. Not only with the BP situation, but in my company to. It seems that the company kept 97% of the profits of its businesses, while the owners got 99% of the liability, but pennies of the profits.
And on top of that, the company I worked for seemed to show contempt, for everyone on the ground level of the business. Those manning the tills, cleaning the carwashes, even the owners tasked with running the businesses and crunching the numbers while forfeiting the majority of the profits. Essentially, those making the company profitable, were treated like shit.
It seemed that at every turn, we were told to correct this problem or that, with the threat of our jobs (or for the owners, their business’s) used as leverage. Our station could have probably sold all of the oil that the earth can provide, and the company would still look down scornfully. Which is why after awhile, I just said mentally, fuck you. Fucking fire me then. I already line your wallets and bank accounts, im not gonna suck your cock to, just because your an egotistical bunch of assholes.
I was glad, when I left that game. Even though the situations that I have encountered since have been less then desirable, they still pale in comparison to that shit hole job. The worst 5 years of my life. Both at the hand of a garbage company, AND of thoughtless moronic consumers.
Which is where I change the direction of this piece.
The attitude of many consumers, is that they can not do anything about the prices. It is beyond their control. That there is nothing they can possibly do to have a positive effect on the situation. Which is true, on the surface. There is nothing that you or I can do alone, to change the prices of oil, or the prices of gasoline/diesel fuel.
Yet while this is true generally, if you think about the situation even a LITTLE bit more then skin deep, you realize that this is wrong.
My job at the gas bar opened my eyes to this.
The price of gas started to rise in around 2008 if I remember right. And at around the same time, the American economy started to tank. The peak oil people may illustrate links between the 2 events, but for this piece, I won’t (I have my own understandings. But thats another entry). I remember that year, mainly because of my road trip from Winnipeg to Florida during July. I do not remember the gas prices, but I do remember the temperatures. Right from Winnipeg pretty much to the keys, was HOT AS FUCK.
But another thing I remember from that year, was work. Dealing with the irritated consumers of the increasingly highly priced moter fuels that drive their livelihoods. Some of the stupids, would go after me. But most, would generally bitch and moan about being pieces in a game that is out of their control. On one hand, I can not blame them for their anger. And yet, to me, there were obvious measures that could have been taken, that were not.
One of them, is the size of the vehicles. People running around the city driving Hummers, SUV’s, 1 ton trucks and other vehicles that are seemingly WAY over sized for the single people (or small families) that they were owned by. An SUV may have a place (but fuck if I can think of one, besides as a status symbol). And one ton trucks also have a place in the work environment, but as a personal vehicle? Not so much.
Don’t get me wrong, people are free to drive whatever vehicle they want to drive. But when you sign the form making it YOUR car, you are assuming all associated costs, both current AND future. So if you went and bought a glorified tank back in 2006 or 2007 that will take 5 years to pay off, that was on YOU. Its just like signing a mortgage or lease agreement. Even if shit happens, YOU TOOK THE RISK.
I know that it may not always be as easy as selling or trading the Hummer off for a Prius. Every situation is different. But there are also driving habits that can increase the millage of any vehicle. For one, lose the lead foot. If you always have to be going from 0 to 50 in 5 seconds , or traveling 60 in a 50 zone, or otherwise wasting fuel needlessly, I have no sympathy for you.
I remember SO many idiots who would practically fly into my lot every 2 or 3 days, fill up their SUV’s or 1 tons, bitch and moan about how they are getting fucked in the ass by big oil, then drive out with tires almost spinning. Then rinse and repeat, week after week. I know that not all humans are bright (in fact, most are not. TJ has it right, see THIS ), but sometimes its hard to resist the urge to grab these people and just shake them. Hard to not reach over the counter and bitch slap them while simultaneously saying “SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU FUCKING MORON!”.
And then there are , the “boycott Oil co A/B/C/D” facebook campaigns. Angry residents of countries around the world, getting together and making dates on which to “boycott” one gas company or other. The idea being, that the oil company will be “hurt” by the action, and have to listen to their grievances.
Even though, all it is, is an utterly stupid AND useless action.
For one thing, one would need to include the vast majority of the population in the companies service area, for such an action to even have minimal impact. A drop of 10 or 20 thousand transactions on any given day, out of a regular daily total of say 500 MILLION, isn’t even a scratch.
If you can organize the masses so that the boycott is widespread, then yeah, it will hurt more. But if its only one day, again, thats fuck all. It will have the same affect on fuel prices as the government issuing a huge fine for negligence. Loss of a few days of profits, then business as usual (HELLO BP America!).
Then there is the obvious problem that is, if you are “boycotting” company A, then that entails that you are planning on purchasing fuel that day. Which means that you will just end up somewhere else, supporting another entity that is doing the exact same thing (aka, what was the point of the “boycott?”).
And there is the other obvious problem, of the little gas station owners. If you boycotted them, then you probable will not be purchasing anything from them. Which hurts them a lot more then it does the oil co that owns/is affiliated with the gas bar.
AND there is the petroleum itself. Even if you buy your gas at company A/B/C/D, there is no guarantee that the said batch of fuel has ALWAYS been in the hands of company A/B/C/D. For example, out in Winnipeg, there are (as far as I know), 2 refineries in operation. They are owned by 2 different companies, we will say companies A and C.
Most of the crude coming into the province for ALL the stations in the province, is processed though those facilities. The only difference’s, are in the various additives each of the different bulk customers want in their fuels.
Meaning that even though you are purchasing your fuel at a company A/B/C/D station (or a store or other generic location), the fuel may STILL have originated from another company.
“Boycott” campaigns are just as effective at attaining the goal of lower fuel prices, as bitching and moaning about it endlessly in conversation (or online) is. While I do have some pity for companies and people that must consume a lot of fuel as a consequence of their business or career, it seems to me that the public has options. We just do not know (or maybe, do not LIKE), to utilize them.
ESPECIALLY people in many Urban areas.
While eliminating a vehicle from the picture is not always practical or possible, that is not what I am saying. You do not need to get rid of the car (though it would certainly be the best option). You just have to, use it smarter.
There is the obvious that I have covered before (do I REALLY need this large sized vehicle? Am I using fuel wastefully?). Then there is alternatives. Instead of driving 3 blocks to the corner store, walk or bike. See if public transportation can cover a lot of your daily transportation needs. Small changes like that.
While this will not have a DIRECT impact on the general fuel prices, these habits WILL have a direct impact where it counts, your wallet.
If you could get everyone who can, to make similar lifestyle changes, then the impact would eventually be felt by the oil co’s. But even if that never happens (which is almost a certainty), you will be better off. Which is the most important part.
The important message of this post is, consumers have a part in the picture to.
Yes, oil prices are high. But if the only reaction to ever rising prices is bitching, complaining, and pointless inactions (boycotts!), then why WOULD the companies stop gouging? No one is going to do anything about it. The consumers will continue to pay, and nothing will change.
Not to mention, even if the companies DO stop gouging on a whim, oil prices can go nowhere but up, from here on out. Such as the nature of any finite substance.
So do what you can to reduce your consumption, and go on with your life. And if you won’t do that, then do not expect any sympathy nor pity from me.