Motorists, stores feel pinch of high prices

Published 5:00 am Friday, April 18, 2008

With gas prices all over town skyrocketing with no seemingrelief, gas station workers and consumers alike are feeling thecrunch.

“There are a lot of things I can’t afford anymore because ofgas,” said Brookhaven’s Jason Moak as he filled up his car at theFleetway at the corner of Highway 51 and Brookway Boulevard, whoestimates he spends $120 a week on gasoline. “They’re outrageous,but what can you do?”

Foster Chevron owner Chester Foster said the rising cost of gas,contrary to popular belief, is actually hurting some store ownerstoo.

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“It’s been bad this week. It’s not good, period,” he said. “Whenyou’re independent like me, it’s hard to compete.”

In addition, Foster said, the fact that prices are so muchhigher means people spend less money on the things that makeconvenience store owners the bulk of their money, items such assnacks and drinks. Gas stations actually only make a few cents agallon on gasoline, and sometimes it’s less when they’re trying tostay competitive.

“We actually lose money on sales when people pay with theircredit cards at the pumps and buy nothing else,” he said.

Prices around town Thursday evening and Friday morning were ashigh as $3.39 for regular unleaded at several stations and as lowas Fleetway’s $3.27 on Brookway Boulevard.

“We’re really at the whim of the market,” said Fleetway managerTim Huckaby. “Last time I heard, the cost of gas is so high becausethe cost of the dollar isn’t as much as it used to be.”

Blue Sky manager Vicki Roberts said prices just keep going up,but that the higher-ups have not told her why.

“They don’t give us a reason,” she said. “We just go by whatthey say. The cost of oil keeps going up, which means the cost ofgas goes up.”

Part of what makes the ascending cost of driving so painful tomany people is the memory of when it was a luxury that wasoverwhelmingly taken for granted.

“I remember when it was 25 cents a gallon and my brother boughta Z-28, and he complained about how much gas cost,” saidHuckaby.

Tasha Waterman, who estimated she spends $100 a week drivingbetween Brookhaven, Crystal Springs and Jackson, said she’s had tocut out other luxuries as well.

“We don’t do a lot of unnecessary travel anymore,” she said. “Ifwe don’t have to go out, we stay at home. And we don’t eat out orrent movies anymore.”

Foster said he’s seen the rising costs take their toll onconsumers who work paycheck-to-paycheck.

“I’m 62 years old, and I don’t have kids to take care of,” hesaid. “But for people with families who have to drive, this ishitting them hard.”

Moak said popular suggestions like hybrid cars are good ideas onthe surface. But for most people, they’re not a practicalpossibility.

“I guess if I could afford one I’d get one,” he said. “It mightbalance out in the long run, but you’ve got to get right firstbefore you can buy a new car.”

Huckaby said there’s no telling how high the prices will getbefore there’s relief in sight, but he can’t imagine them gettingover five dollars a gallon.

“I can’t call it,” he said. “But I would imagine five dollarswould be the limit.”

Foster said he expects prices to hit around four dollars andplateau out. But, he said, the market has been bad before, andsomehow it always evens out in the end.

“We’re going to make it,” he said. “The Lord will take care ofus.”