One of our readers, Mark Glenn, of Glenn Oil Company, LLC., recently sent me the following e-mail:
“Attached is a post card I received a few days ago from XXXX. XXXX is a company that specializes in restoration parts for older classic muscle cars. I have done business with them on many occasions over the past 20 years.
I was not happy to see how they attacked the retailers in order to promote a sale. Thought you may want to run an article about this. XXXX operates out of Georgia.”
I can see the point of Mark’s irritation. The postcard from the company’s discount promotion featured a motorist taking a sledge hammer to a fuel dispenser with the line: “Gas prices got you down? TAKE 20% OFF!”
Mark sent the company a complaint, and to the company’s credit, it apologized. Mark is to be commended for sticking up for the industry and educating others as the company’s response indicated: “We are very sorry that you find our advertising to be offensive. We in no way were trying to single out retail fuel facilities as the cause of high gas prices. Nor would we be suggesting to anyone to force violence at a service station.
“This ad postcard was done very tongue in cheek as are most of our promotions. Our intent was to bring attention to the fact that we are all frustrated about high prices, the economy, and that fact that it is very hard to find extra money these days to buy parts for our beloved machines.”
Of course, fuel retailers and marketers are, if anything, even more frustrated over such high prices at the pump than their customers. What is encouraging is that the industry associations have done an excellent job educating the media, legislators and the public over the limited role downstream players have in gasoline prices. You do see plenty of “tongue in cheek” references to gasoline prices that can spark some irritation. But what we don’t hear lately is the media bullhorn blaming retailers for price gouging, or too many serious efforts among state attorneys general to grandstand with superficial (but for the industry deadly serious) investigations or among legislators in Washington to bring forth new price gouging legislation.
Being a cynic, I believe that even if the media and politicians were personally educated on the issue they would still be tempted to make public hay over it if they felt they could score points with readers or constituents. But, I think that they realize that the public, by and large, gets it. Debates over the issue in various Internet forums and social media sites show a lot of education at the public level over the source of high gasoline prices. You don’t even hear strong calls to go after the “evil oil companies” upstream except as part of the ongoing budget skirmish.
This is quite a change from the early part of the 2000s. And I believe we should strongly commend the national industry organizations like NACS and PMAA (and API aside from that bit of unseemliness around Hurricane Katrina) for what has been a dedicated and extensive education campaign. Similarly, the state associations and the many retailers and marketers that individually talked to reporters to get the message out deserve a firm pat on the back.
Correction: There was a reporting error in our March issue in the article “Commercial Carrier Safety ChangesCommercial Carrier Safety ChangesCommercial Carrier Safety ChangesCommercial Carrier Safety ChangesCommercial Carrier Safety Changes.” The piece said legislation came out making electronic on-board recorders mandatory for all interstate carriers; it should have said a notice of proposed rulemaking came out. “(A) notice of proposed rulemaking came out in January to make (electronic on-board) recorders mandatory," for all interstate carriers, said Wessendorf, “which can get pretty expensive for fleets.”