Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I was forced to drive into the big city today,  I needed to buy some things that only Costco can provide. As I was getting low on fuel, I thought I'd top off El Cheepo Jeepo at the gas island while I was there. I changed my mind when I saw the lines.

Frankly, the investment in time was a little more than I was willing to make. (Funny though, I didn't mind taking the time to stop and snap a few pictures!) The gas island at Costco is usually busy, though not at 13:30. Commuters usually stock up early in the morning or late in the afternoon, on their way to/from work.

I asked the attendant how much per gallon Costco was getting for regular, the answer was $3.41. Though I thought it steep, I knew it was cheaper than surrounding stations. Again, not being a fan of long lines and the poor behavior that they generate, I opted to drive on to another station.

One block away, I found this sign:

$3.49. Not bad, especially when the pumping environment looked like this:

$3.49 a gallon, .08 more than Costco. As my vehicle required 15 gallons to fill it on this occasion, it cost me $1.20 more to avoid the line and rude people over at Costco.

To me, it is worth it. To others, maybe not so much. Is $1.20 worth 15 minutes of time? I don't think the answer is clear, it is too subjective.

What I am curious about, is whether the people who stood in line for 15 minutes actually did the math and figured out exactly how much money they saved. Did the driver of that Toyota Corolla who took 12 gallons of gas (96 cents saved) feel it was worth a buck to sit in line? How many times a month do they top off?

If they did the math and know what they saved, was their decision based on a need to save that dollar? Or, was it the perception that fuel prices are skyrocketing and they had better fill up and save while they can?
Honestly, as a person who remembers the fuel shortages of the '70s, I hope it was the former and not the latter. Obviously, supply is not an issue right now, there were three other stations within a quarter mile of Costco, each was nearly empty. The psychology of fuel pricing and supply probably has more of an impact on us than the actual supply does.

The first tremor in the economy that we felt a few years back, was a steep hike in fuel prices. There did not really appear to be a good reason for the increase back then, but it really altered the way many of us spent money.
Today, with all of the unrest in the Middle East, there does appear to be some legitimate reason for the unease in the world oil markets. I just hope that things calm down over there before it has a long term effect on our already slow economy.

I also hope that the lines at Costco don't become the norm at all stations. I remember what that is like, I don't want to put up with that again.

Thanks for reading,


  1. Just think, they may have saved $1.20 but what about the fuel wasted idling in line. I remember the 70's fuel crunch. In fact we had a pipeline break and the news went crazy about a fuel shortage and that started a stampede for gas. There were lines with an hour or more wait time. I had enough fuel that I could wait and figured I would go check out a little off the beaten track station. There were zero cars!

  2. aah, and over in the uk it's more like £1.30 a LITRE...

  3. Just be happy you're not filling up in the UK. Prices at the moment are at about £1.30 per LITRE. Quick maths tells me that's about $8.30 per gallon.
    And that's whether you stand waiting for it or not...

  4. I thought I was the only one who thought this way. I laugh at all the Mercedes SUV owners at Costco waiting in line to save a dollar or two. Maybe if they had bought American they could afford more for gas.

    I do watch to see which stations charge more for credit card use. My truck has a 36 gallon tank, and I usually fill it up s needed, so I will stop at my bank's ATM for cash (which is on my way) to save $4-5 dollars with the cash price.

  5. Main Lady does the math on fuel, including estimated wait time. I generally give it some thought, one way or another. I hate waiting in line, especially for fuel.

  6. The price of L1.30 in Britain, is the greater cost due to taxes?

    Mr. Police Man, isn't that a mountain in Alaska?

  7. Schmoe - approx 80% of the price of fuel here is due to tax. It is unbelievable. Yet, somehow, the vast majority of the population, whilst cutting back on so many things, thinks nothing of the ever rising cost of fuel.....