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What is an appropriate penalty for gas gouging?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on September 3, 2005

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Photo of Vicki Zasadny

“They should have to sell gas for as much under the real price as they tried to sell it over the real price for the same amount of time.”

Photo of Ryan Shaughnessy

“I’m honestly not sure they should be penalized, even though I don’t agree with what they are doing. The people are just greedy, but I don’t think they should be penalized for trying to make money. It’s the American way.”

Photo of Tim Thompson

“Run ‘em out of town. They obviously have no sense of community, so they shouldn’t be a part of one.”

Photo of Jessica Freeman

“The store owner should at least have to pay everyone back the difference in price.”

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Richard Heckler 12 years, 8 months ago

Put their name in headlines and suggest boycotting that station due to lack of integrity. Allow the consumers to be involved in a $10,000 fine. A small fine will do nothing.

jayhawks71 12 years, 8 months ago

As "wrong" as it is to take advantage of people, especially in a difficult situation, I think Ryan (above) has it right. No, I don't want to pay 7 dollars a gallon for gas, but you can use your purchasing power to go elsewhere both now and in the future. Also, use word of mouth to let your friends know that station X was charging 7 dollars a gallon so that they can avoid them. Why should one be able to tell a business owner what to charge for a product? The value of an item is reflected by what people will pay for it. If no one buys gas for 7 dollars a gallon, the price won't remain that high for long. Are downtown stores "gouging" all the time because you can get some things so much cheaper at Wal Mart?

nut_case 12 years, 8 months ago

It would be nice if some sort of penalty were enforced. The debate could rage ad nauseum on what that should be. Vicki has a pretty good idea, though!

On a personal level, I took note of all the stations that jumped to $5+/gallon on 9/11. For many months afterward, I strictly avoided those stations and stuck with the few that stayed at normal market levels. To this day I still try and avoid them if possible.

However, since I noticed that ethanol is cheaper AND higher octane, I've started burning a 50/50 mix with my gas so my personal "boycott" has lost half of its "punch" ! But, saving hundreds of $ on gas, supporting farmers instead of terrorists and having a better running car I guess I can live with that!

gccs14r 12 years, 8 months ago

I'm tired of greedy people getting away with destroying the country. Whether it's a short-term problem like gouging or a long-term problem like forcing U.S. manufacturers to close by the thousands because they cannot compete with slave labor, businesses in this country that are in it for themselves with no regard for the overall health of the nation that allowed them to flourish in relative safety should be seized and auctioned and their owners imprisoned. I won't hold my breath.

beatrice 12 years, 8 months ago

I agree with you n_c: remember those who try to take advantage, and then don't go back. That will have a greater impact than a fine. There is one station on 23rd I haven't been back to since 9-11. Perhaps you will recall the lame excuse that went something like this: "I didn't know what to do. There were so many people, so I raised the price to scare them away." Right.

Fangorn: last night's "a little Chevy Levee Levy levitie" -- classic!

gccs14r 12 years, 8 months ago

"Now stegasaurus steak was mighty fine. It's just that we didn't know the name "stegasaurus" yet and there wasn't any A-1."

Did you ever see the Thagomizer (after the late Thag Simmons) in action? (with thanks to Gary Larson.)

GreenEyedBlues 12 years, 8 months ago

Making money is the Amurrican way! Ryan Shaughnessy must make a KILLING by selling stickers.

I'm goin' to hell. But I think that's already been established.

In high school I filled up my car on $13 tops. This week it cost me $32.10 for a fillup. AAAaaaaahhh!

Gougers should have their eyes poked out with dipsticks.

Fangorn 12 years, 8 months ago

e_m: from yesterdays' board, I must say how please I am to see someone use the word "plinth". Also, if we can talk about "Old New York", why not New New New Orleans? :)

Beatrice: I was tired and being silly. I'm glad you thought it was funny. I kept hearing Jay Leno's voice in my head.

I don't believe so-called "price gouging" is wrong. I don't like it, but that doesn't make it wrong. Economist Walter Williams exlains the actual benefits of "gouging" here:

"Price gouging" happens usually happens in the wake of a disaster that affects the supply of something, creating a scarcity. To use the example of gasoline, the high prices will cause some people to buy less than they might have otherwise, making more available for others. In other words, at normal prices the first 50 people get all they want and those who come later get nothing. "Gouging" causes those first in line to buy less than they want but leaves some for everyone else. It's very unlikely that the first 50 would buy less than they want and leave more for others voluntarily, out of the goodness of their hearts and deep-felt love for their fellow man, without the incentive of the higher prices.

Fishman 12 years, 8 months ago

I say boycott them forever!!! I STILL BOYCOTT WOOD'S OIL!!! They immediately put their gas at I think it was $2.49 per gallon right after 9/11. I used to buy gas there all the time, and have NEVER since. I for one would love to know of any stations that are doing more than just making a fair buck. Go ahead and take advantage of people, but let's all let them rot in hell when the crisis is over, and spend our money elsewhere. Let's make this behavior the American Way!!

ms_canada 12 years, 8 months ago

Well, there you go, thank you fangorn for that explanation. And I must say, it certainly does make sense. I have determined to do my bit by walking to the bank, drugstore, supermarket and my sister-in-laws house. Unfortunately I can't walk all the way to church.
But if you all have seen my previous post the other day, with a huge oil refinery visible from my front window, the price of gasoline is now over $4.00/gal. here. But as you say, if I walk and 100 others walk, maybe, just maybe, there will be enough gas from our refinery to ship to KS, N.Y., Wash. Ore, etc. etc. :o) :o)

gccs14r 12 years, 8 months ago

"It's very unlikely that the first 50 would buy less than they want and leave more for others voluntarily, out of the goodness of their hearts and deep-felt love for their fellow man, without the incentive of the higher prices."

Funny, I did exactly that by cancelling a vaction trip. I can't justify burning 120 gallons of gas on a pleasure trip when there are people who can't get enough gas to go to work.

ms_canada 12 years, 8 months ago

gccs14r - I commend you for your unselfish act. Perhaps it will encourage others to do the same. Another selfless idea is this, why don't all those vacationers who are planning on flying to some tropical isle on a charter flight all cancel and save the airline fuel. Or better yet just have the airline cancel the flight. Or at least not fly with planes that are only half or 3/4 full. And I am not being funny, I am serious. There are countless millions of $$ wasted each minute on this planet on needless expenditures. In good times, ok, but in emergency situations, a little restraint would go a long way. :o)

Richard Heckler 12 years, 8 months ago

I'll offer a more positive thought. Gouging has an unwritten benefit for the environment. People will begin to drive less once they get the credit card statement. Whoops this is how much we spend for special times like vacation.

Lawrence has two great bicycle shops so I suspect sooner or later more will realize how much fun a bike date over creme sherry,Fat Tire or Copperhead can be not to mention a fine meal along the way. Walking or riding will help work it all off and have some fun. Walk or bike to a party...I mean what the hell some fresh air is good for all of us.

Cycle Works has the best selection of front lights by far.

italianprincess 12 years, 8 months ago

Good afternoon everyone,

I topped off my tank last night just to have a full tank. I paid 3.09 for gas and I startd with 3/4 tank. So basically I got 1/4 tank for 10.00. High yes, but my car gets good gas milege and I work at home.

I got an instant message from my friend who lives in Baton Rouge. He went to get gas last night and sat in a line inching forward for about an hour or so he said. One thing that made him mad was the fact that people were filling their boats and jet skies. Theres a shortage on gas out there right now and he was so angry that these people were doing this.

One good thing he and his g/f has done was to take a family in from NO. This family lost there house and have nothing left and its so great to know my friend has opened his house to them.

The benefit concert is coming along and merchants around Lawrence are getting involved. My son thinks that this is going to be bigger then I had planned now. To me though....the bigger the better. The more money brought in that day the more we can give to help others in need right now.

This benefit is going ROCK and I hope to see everyone out that day.

christie 12 years, 8 months ago

I believe there are already penalties established. I think it's either $1,000 or $10,000 per incident. Someone should look this up.

Let's see how old we really are. When I was in High School I could fill up my V.W. for $5.00. I remember when the V.W. Bug sold for $2,000 brand new. And I remember when I saw that commercial I was furious that they would sell a car for that much money.

gccs14r 12 years, 8 months ago

"Let's see how old we really are. When I was in High School I could fill up my V.W. for $5.00. I remember when the V.W. Bug sold for $2,000 brand new."

Gas was $1.25 in high school. I made $3.15 and drove a car that got 8 mpg. I took a job that paid $4.50, but had a farther commute, so I sold the fast gas hog and bought a car that got 35 mpg. Old Lady Hudson got busted for pump tampering. Cars were downsized again to meet ever-more-stringent fuel economy and emissions standards. A stamp was 20 cents. There was still just The Phone Company (except for those poor saps in California stuck with GTE). Only doctors had pagers. Only the wealthy had car phones.

So much happened in the 20th century that historians will argue for centures more about who did what to whom and why.

letsgetwise 12 years, 8 months ago

I agree we can just stop buying at any station that's too high. Anybody notice if the price of bikes, mopeds, motorcycles, hybrid cars is going up? Just a thought.

sunflower_sue 12 years, 8 months ago

OMB & e_m, Thanks for giving us some entertainment tonight. All I want to know is, were you really sad when all the dinosaurs died?

No kidding, My Mom said her ring was 2 longs and 2 shorts. (She still has a working rotary phone in her house and her grandkids are amazed with the contraption.) She was even had a job as a phone operater (you know, where they plug and unplug wires). And yes, she said when they got bored they would eavesdrop on conversations! (Bad girl!) My hubby was on a party line until the late 70's and his phone number was just 2865. (But he's from the boonies.)

As for the gougers, I agree 100% with Vicki Zasadny up top.

I have 2 friends this weekend that are trading in their gashogs for more fuel efficient cars. I forsee cheap prices on trucks and SUV's in the near future.

italianprincess 12 years, 8 months ago

You are only as old as you feel............

gccs14r 12 years, 8 months ago

Sunflower Sue,

My maternal grandparents were on a party line up until 2002 or so, after my grandmother had passed away and my grandfather had to do a stint in long-term care. Their desk phone was so old that it had a metal dial. The return spring gave out, so one had to push the dial in both directions. I can't imagine how much they paid for it via the monthly lease over almost 60 years. I hope someone saved it, 'cause it belongs in a museum.

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