Fed up station owner shuts off gas pumps
POSTED: 11:41 a.m. EDT, May 25, 2007
MEQUON, Wisconsin (AP) -- Motorists pulled in to Harvey Pollack's gas station, honked and gave him a thumbs-up -- because he wasn't selling any fuel.
The owner of Towne Market Mobil in this suburb north of Milwaukee shut down his pumps for 24 hours, hoping to start a movement aimed at convincing oil companies to lower their prices.
"Somebody out there is making money at these prices, but not me," said Pollack, 57. "So I just thought: What can I do to help the consumer?" (Watch the finger pointing over soaring gas prices )
Yellow caution tape surrounded Pollack's six idle pumps for his protest, which drew dozens of drivers. One in a green minivan rolled down her window and shouted "Thank you!"
Maria McClory, 38, drove 10 miles out of her way to buy a diet soda from Pollack's station after seeing local television coverage of the protest.
"I just wanted to support them and thank them for making a statement," said McClory, who drives about 100 miles a day for work in her sport utility vehicle.
Other drivers were more skeptical.
Jeff Bensman, 52, pulled in expecting to gas up his Honda sedan. He said he appreciated the protest but did not think it would make much difference.
"Most other places are going to be open in the area," he said.
Jack Sobczak, general sales manager for Lakeside Oil Co., a contracted Mobil distributor that supplies Pollack's station, said Bensman was probably right: "The demand will just move down the street to the next Mobil station."
Pollack and station general manager John Schwartz agreed to experiment with a pump shutdown after an Internet-based push for a one-day gas boycott went largely unheeded last week.
"Somebody's got to be the first to try this," Schwartz said.
The Mequon station sells about 3,500 gallons of gas a day, Pollack said. He estimated the station would lose only $1,500 on the protest because some losses in gas would be made up by people buying convenience store items or more gas on Friday.
Pollack, who also owns a Milwaukee title insurance agency, said he bought the gas station in 2003 as an investment but he has not turned a profit in 30 months because gas margins are razor thin and he cannot sell enough volume to compensate.
Pollack said he has virtually no control over the price he charges for gas. The company usually makes 8 to 12 cents per gallon after suppliers' prices and credit card fees. On Wednesday -- the day before the protest -- that added up to $3.49 for a gallon of unleaded gas. (Watch what you can do to save at the pump)
Schwartz called that "outrageous" and said even he can't fill up his SUV at that price.
"If it keeps going like this, my kids will never be able to afford to drive," said Schwartz, who has an 18-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter.
The protest came as several Wisconsin service stations announced they would no longer sell gas because they make little or no profit on it after they pay wholesalers, credit card fees and taxes. They said they would focus on auto repairs instead.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Stupidest. protest. ever.
Do these people read? Do they truly understand the size of the monster problem they are trying to address here? One woman drives 10 miles out of her way to support the protest. Another SUV-driver laments that his children will never be able to drive at these prices. This dude buys a gas station as an investment? Does he not understand the fundamentals of what is going on?
These people can't fathom that they are as much a part of the problem as the oil companies themselves. The oil companies are only providing a service that our entire society wants...no...needs. Irrational addicts of a magical elixir.
Let me rephrase all of that. These people can't fathom that they are the source of the problem. We all are. We have allowed our dependence on oil and gas to become so deep, so precarious, so fundamental, that backing off would damage us more than to simply suck it up and pay the piper until we can't afford it any longer. Then everything falls apart. We've all agreed to let it happen. We've all agreed to become dependent on this infrastructure for everything we need to survive. We all know that we've been paying way less for this than we should have been for a very long time. We all knew this day of reckoning was going to come (...if we did our homework on the fundamentals, once again). We've lived so far beyond our means for so long it has become the norm, and now everyone's feeling the pinch, becoming inconvenienced, and now looking for a scapegoat.
Gob, we're so stupid on so many levels. This is only the beginning.