Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Thinking seriously about which oil company gets my business

It's day 100 since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill began and BP has become a constant fixture on the nightly newscasts and in the morning papers and vilified on website, blogs and social networking sites. I don't know about you, but I have certainly changed my fuel buying habits since this crisis began.

I've started buying my fuel again from ARCO gas stations. ARCO is owned by BP.

So perhaps I am bucking a societal trend.

The decision is based entirely on economics -- mine.

Yesterday, on my way to work I notices the fuel prices for regular unleaded gasoline on two gas stations I drove past. One, the ARCO station that I have recently started using as my primary fuel station, listed unleaded for $2.76 per gallon. The Shell station that I sometimes have used to my fuel purchases listed it's price at $3.00 per gallon.

For the record, I'm rounding up, as I refuse to play along with gas stations' deceptive marketing strategy of listing the price in big type, and the 9/10th figure is small type. So, the Shell sign actually read 2.99 and 9/10ths. We all know that's $3.

At a price difference of 24 cents per gallon, it would cost me more than $4 extra at the Shell station to fill the tank. I can buy a meal for that price at a fast-food join, or probably more than one at the grocery store.

To be fair, the price at the Shell station actually dropped today by 4 cents per gallon, but it would still cost me about $3.40 a tank more at the Shell station.

One of the reason I used to be a periodic Shell customer was that I have a Shell credit card. It was not my primary fuel stop, as Shell tends to be more expensive than either Chevron or Texaco, for which I also have a credit card (different names, same company, same card for Chevron and Texaco). I got used to using the cards when I lived in California. It was so convenient to use the gas cards at the pump of the self-serve stations there.

ARCO was more of a pain. They don't take credit cards. So it required cash (or later debt cards). It took more time to go into the store to pay, or use their pay island kiosks.

So I paid a little more for the convenience of speed. Usually, I paid off my bill every month so it was no big deal.

But now, with gas prices back near $3 per gallon, sometime I have carried a balance over on those cards. I'm still trying to pay off a balance on one of them, even though I've been paying cash for gas for at least a month now.

In my effort to get debt free, I think I will keep my business with stations that offer the best price for fuel and don't tempt me by making it too easy to use a credit card. In this part of the country, that's probably going to mean buying fuel most of the time at ARCO, from BP's subsidiary.

For my money, BP is no more evil than any other oil company out there. In fact, ARCO's no credit policy is more benevolent, than the others companies that rake in billions of dollars every quarter -- every 3 months -- by charging steep prices for their fuel and more than 25 percent interest (or more) on their credit cards.

BP reported a $17 billion loss Monday for the quarter with costs related to the oil spill. Royal Dutch Shell will report earnings Thursday. In the first quarter, the company reported nearly $5 billion in net income for the quarter ending in March. But that's nothing. Chevron will report earnings on Friday, and Thomson Reuters expects the company to report a 30 percent increase in profits, to $52.5 billion.

I can live, with a little more economic comfort, with my decision.

1 comment:

Gene said...

This works for me. I don't believe BP's quarterly figure is based on what has been spent in the Gulf; now if they're anticipating, somehow, what it will cost them...

Credit cards, the gift that keeps on giving, eh wot?

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