Perceptions, reality, conjecture and guesses regarding fuel prices:
• Perception: Gas is always higher in Bolivar than most anywhere around us. Reality: Not always. But too often.
• Perception: Gas always jumps in price everywhere just prior to holidays. Reality: Not always. But it jumped about 17 cents here Tuesday in advance of Independence Day, during one of the busiest travel weeks of the year.
• Perception: Gas prices are always higher in tourist areas, such as area lakes. Reality: Not always. In fact, Camdenton stations often offer prices lower than here and other areas.
Bolivar indeed has a reputation, at least at home, of having high gas prices, noticed most by those who frequently travel to Springfield, Republic, Ozark, Aurora, Harrisonville, Collins, Buffalo, Brighton, Halfway, Pittsburg or many other places beyond and in between.
And those observations occasionally generate buzz throughout modern social media (Facebook) and traditional social media (coffee shop, barber shop, beauty shop, feed store and such). People make it rather clear that they don’t miss many opportunities to fill up elsewhere after leaving home or before returning home, and they sometimes weigh the math and principle involved with driving elsewhere (burning gas) specifically for the purpose of paying less for gas.
One can’t help but wonder how much the reputation costs Bolivar fuel vendors in lost sales of not only fuel but the other things they must rely on to make a profit, since we’re all frequently told that no retailers can make enough profit on gas sales alone to justify being in business. And how much does the perception cost the city in lost sales tax revenue?
However, there are many times when it can be difficult to find an open pump here, so one also must wonder if anyone but the consumer, on occasion, is being hurt by it all, as many are lining up to buy it regardless of price.
What puzzles some within the buzz circuit is the knowledge that the same pipeline is providing the same product being trucked to most of the above locales. And most of the retail locations are owned by large companies presumably paying the same wholesale prices at the times for the same stores, but they are not necessarily charging the same retail prices at all locations.
But one must consider that not all locations need fuel deliveries on the same day, and the fuel in one location’s storage tanks might have been purchased at a lower or higher rate than the fuel in a sister store’s tanks. Which could be the reason the same brand of store in Springfield might have multiple different prices throughout Springfield. Or not.
But when do we see the same brand not have the same price among all of its locations here? And among all competitors here? There were a few hours Tuesday when some Bolivar stores were holding at $2.34 when others had jumped to either $2.49 or $2.51. But by late afternoon, all were at one of the two higher rates, regardless of ownership.
Think of the money to be made if the “market” price is headed north when the supply already contracted and/or delivered was purchased at substantially lower prices.
Then again, think of the money to be lost by the store — especially a small independent store — that took a large delivery on one day at a high price, only to see a substantial drop in retail price at competing stores the next day.
It’s not hard to imagine the juggling involved, hoping they can have as many or more days on the high end of that exchange as on low end.
But everyone in the business is dealing with that, so it wouldn’t explain why prices among all competitors would be the same higher price throughout all of any one city or town on a given day than in many other locales the same day, especially among stores with the same ownership calling the pricing shots across the spectrum.
It would be nice for this community as a whole to have answers to the many questions, and answers beyond this one that one local fellow says he has often heard when quizzing a friend who is in the business: “I just look out the window and see what the competitor is charging and then match it.”
Dave Berry is the former BH-FP editor and publisher and now carries the fancy has-been label of “emeritus.” Please direct any complaints or other direct communication with him to firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, the people who actually work here deserve to not be bothered by any of his weekly and weakly distractions or disruptions.