Two gas stations, both located on High Street within one mile of one another, are charging radically varying prices for their gasoline, causing students and faculty of the West Chester University to question whether or not they’re being taken advantage of.The Shell Gas & Service station, located at 818 South High Street, is currently charging $2.79 per gallon for regular unleaded fuel. Eight-tenths of a mile down the road, where South High Street meets Route 202, the Beyond Petroleum (formerly British Pertoleum) station is selling regular unleaded gasoline for $2.39 per gallon. The 40 cent difference is seemingly unaccounted for as students continue to pay the higher price for pumping their gas at the station closest to campus.
There is no legally defined price variance that is considered gouging, however, a representative from the Pennsylvania State Attorney General’s office told The Quad, “It definitely sounds like price gouging.” Twenty-eight states currently have anti-gas price gouging laws in place to prevent such mark-ups, Pennsylvania does not. Likewise, the federal government does not have a clear definition of what price gouging is. Station owners are typically accused of price gouging after raising their prices more than once in a 24-hour period, which is prohibited by some states’ laws.
Afif Abdelmalek, the manager of the Shell station on High Street blames commissions and his high cost for the difference in price and says it has nothing to do with his station’s vicinity to WCU, saying, “I’m not trying to gouge the students.”
Abdelmalek claims his cost is $2.67 and he cannot compete with the BP station who he believes is selling gas at below cost. The manager says that his gasoline prices are determined solely based on profit margins and have nothing to do with the station’s vicinity to the WCU campus or the BP station down the street. “Sometimes I lose money on my gas,” Abdelmalek states, “but I’m not going to compete with them.”
The Shell manager also made note of his company’s excellent fuel quality, pointing out that Shell uses additives that help it to run smoother and allow for better gas mileage. He also noted that car repair is his main business and that gasoline sales are not his biggest concern.
Daniel Li, the owner of the competing BP station on South High Street was unavailable for comment.
The closest Shell gas stations to the one on South High Street are located in Wilmington, De. At those gas stations, regular unleaded fuel is being sold for $2.34 per gallon. In Pennsylvania, the American Automobile Association, or AAA, reports the average price for regular unleaded gasoline to be $2.44 per gallon. AAA reports a national average of $2.41 per gallon.
The variance in local gas prices is not going unn -oticed. The Quad received a flood of e-mails from students and faculty about the difference in gasoline prices on South High Street. This week, AAA is expected to release new numbers regarding the average price of gasoline, both state and nationwide, and experts expect it to be down.
Note: All prices are accurate as of Friday, Sept. 22, 2006. During the writing of this article and following press time, gas prices at the two gas stations featured in the article fluctuated.