The Convenient Price Manipulations of SuperAmerica

One of the local news stations ran an expose on local gas prices, which fluctuate wildly compared to most of the rest of the nation. It’s not uncommon now for prices to jump by 15-20 cents in a day and then slowly drop over the next week. While gas price trends are similar to most of the US, the graph of price changes is a lot more jagged & jumpy versus the smoother curves seen elsewhere.

The apparent reason? The Twin Cities area is one of the metro regions lucky enough to be dominated by the Marathon/Speedway/Super America chains. They have enough market presence that they set the gas prices for most of the metro and appear to have a business strategy of jacking prices way up right before high-demand weekends (holidays, fishing opener, etc.) to increase their profit margins on gasoline from around $.01 per gallon to $.15 or $.20. But that’s not price gouging of course…  If you watch the video, you’ll get to see where SA management refused to comment live, but claimed that their gas pricing strategy was ‘business confidential.’

I’m also reading that there are more and more energy experts and industry insiders telling us that Americans’ huge consumption of gasoline is the reason for higher gas prices, and that we need to drive less if we want prices to go down. So much for the “there’s plenty of oil out there; you just have to let us go get it” talking points.

Interestingly enough, prices around here surged to $3.39/gallon last weekend but are now down to around $3.15, which makes little sense since this is Memorial Day weekend, when Minnesotans traditionally start heading north in droves every weekend to get to the cabin. Perhaps the Super America folks are trying to save face after more or less being exposed as price manipulators on the local news?

Enjoy your long weekend. I’ll be spending most of mine on the couch recovering from my first days back at work. The level of work is OK, but crutching around the office has been most effective in telling me how little upper-body strength I’ve retained since college. My triceps and chest muscles are telling me in no uncertain terms that I suck. 🙂

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3 Responses to The Convenient Price Manipulations of SuperAmerica

  1. Jim says:

    Between 1995 and 1999 I was living in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan for college. The local gas stations of all brands and ownership ALL reduced gas prices by 6 cents every Thursday. I think the motivation was to attract customers from the much larger city of Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario across the river. The price of gas on the Canadian side was higher, as was the price of milk, and Canadians by the thousands came across the border every Thursday to stock up on these items. The point of this story is that the price of gas could fluctuate by six cents and I noticed and knew it was gas sale day. Now the price of gas seems to fluctuate by 10-30 cents on a daily basis. There would almost be no point in having a 6-cent gas sale.

  2. Rebecca says:

    I’m glad you’re doing well, Bart. Get back on your feet soon!

  3. Bart says:

    The point of the TV story was that the drastic price fluctuations only happen in markets where SA is the 800-pound gorilla. Prices rise in other areas, but in a smoother curve compared to SA-land.

    @Rebecca: Thanks! I’m just playing the waiting game right now… Crutches sure do tell you just how out of shape one’s upper body is. 🙂

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