Gas-price bloat

County's nine most expensive stations asked why they buck the trend

With gas prices falling every day in San Diego, averaging $2.63 a gallon on January 9 (according to gasbuddy.com), motorists may wonder why nine stations in the county seem to be bucking the declining-price trend. These stations have continued selling regular gas above the noticeably high $3.00-per-gallon cash price. Some of the nine stations haven’t lowered their prices since before the holidays.

All of the high-priced nine are major branded stations. I asked attendants at each one to explain the higher-than-average prices (posted as of 8:00 a.m., January 9, on gasbuddy.com).

• Shell, $3.49, Del Mar Heights Road & High Bluff Drive, Carmel Valley: “We also pay the highest rent of any station — $22,000 a month.”

• 76, $3.29, Garnet Avenue & Mission Bay Drive. Pacific Beach: “The manager’s not available, he’s with a customer, call him on Monday."

• 76, $3.29, Orange Avenue, Coronado: “We’re special.”

• Shell, $3.29, Mission Center Road & Mission Center Court, Mission Valley: “The owner’s not available. Call him on Monday.”

• Mobil, $3.29, Mission Center Road & Mission Center Court: Mission Valley: “I have no idea.”

• Valero, $3.19, Orange Avenue, Coronado: “The oil company sets the prices.”

• Shell, $3.19, 28th Street & Boston Avenue, Grant Hill: “I don’t know. I’m just a worker here.”

• Chevron, $3.09, Camino del Rio North & Qualcomm Way, Mission Valley: “I have nothing to do with it. Call the manager around 12 o’clock.”

• 76, $3.09, Pearl Street & Eads Avenue, La Jolla: “Rent is very expensive here — $25,000 a month."

Of any part of San Diego County, Escondido has been the low-price leader in gasoline for decades. Experts say there are a lot of independent gas stations in town that were abandoned by the major brands; thus, more competition. On January 8, of the 11 low-price leaders in San Diego County, 8 stations were in Escondido, including the top-5 lowest priced.

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There are franchises for name-brand gas stations where the wholesale price they pay is higher than the retail price at corporate-owned stations from the same brand.

But the good news is, there's no such thing as "cheap gas" (read: not inexpensive in price, but cheap in quality). The only difference between the cheapest and most expensive gas, besides location, might be a couple of minor additives. Any gas sold at any real gas station is going to be fine for any car. So drive past the Shells and Chevros and head to the goofy station that looks like it's in Iraq or Venezuela.

Oh, another difference is the stations like AM/PM that doesn't accept credit cards. It costs 1 or 2% to have CC transactions processed. A station that doesn't handle credit cards at all can be a nickle less than the guy across the street.

Today's prices near me at the ARCO at El Cajon Blvd. and Texas St.


by dwbat

Thanks jnojr for the truth. There is no difference between major branded gas and independents. There is also no such thing as "watered down" gas.

All gas is the same except octane. The gas comes into San Diego by pipeline to that "tank farm" in Mission Valley. Trucks, some branded some not, pull in fill up and deliver to a branded or independent station. A branded truck fills up and right behind it an unbranded truck fills up. They depart and go to their respective delivery points. No difference in the gas just the price the customer pays. Only stupid people or those who don't care what they pay or just to lazy to go to another station fill up at he most expensive ones. They are getting the same gas and the guy that buys at the cheapest station. "Back in the day" we used to drive to Escondido to fill up at 17 cents a gallon when the price was 22 cents in San Diego. Those were the days of 400 HP muscle cars but I digress.

I grew up in Tulsa, and we had two oil refineries across the Arkansas River. (still in operation). All the gas stations got their gas locally. Recently Tulsa had the lowest gas price in the nation ($1.98). I can remember gas wars when the price was 25 cents, and you still got full-service!

Gas at the SD tank farm is dyed, based on the brand. That's how the guy that turns the valves on the pipeline knows which tank to put it in. Chevron purple, Shell yellow, Mobil red, ARCO blue, etc. 76 used to be orange but not sure now that owner Conoco Phillips's corp colors are red, and 76 balls are red too.

I never knew gasoline had different colors. But back in the '60s in Tulsa, the Pacer/Fina stations had a marketing gimmick to get more customers. They claimed their air hoses offered pink air for your tires!


by dwbat

Pink air? That's a new one on me dwbat. I'd love to know more of the history behind that.

I zoomed in on your ad to be able to read - classic. Nowhere in the text does it say why or what "Pink Air" will do for tires. Just so stupid. Obviously died because my family was in the gas biz in 1961 when this premiered, and they never had colored air, as the article claims "within five years every station will have it." Thanks for finding that ad.

Ken, the whole thing was an advertising tongue-in-cheek joke. Obviously, no "pink air" was ever shown in a big glass jar. And I don't ever remember any customers suing because they couldn't see any pink air spewing out of the air hose while inflating their tires.

If you are following this story, the infamous nine stations above $3.00/gal are now down to four. Del Mar Heights Shell, the two Coronado stations, and the one in La Jolla. The highest, Del Mar Heights that remained at $3.49 for two months, finally dropped their price by 20 cents/gal this morning, yet still remains the highest in San Diego County.

And today's ARCO prices on El Cajon Blvd. and Texas. I bet the low price will get down to $2.


by dwbat

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