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Gas prices, customers' anger increase

August 28, 2003|HERB BROCK

When it comes to the high price of gasoline, Rita Brock sees things from both sides of the pump.

On Wednesday morning, Brock was a customer filling up at the Chills convenience store and gas station on Lexington Road in Danville. If she had had a blood pressure cuff on one of her arms, those numbers may have soared along with those on the pump.

"It's ridiculous," said Brock, a Danville resident. "I understand there is an ample supply of gasoline, but somehow the powers that be have decided it's time to jack up the price."

Brock also harbors the same feelings from her perspective as a manager of a store that sells gasoline. She manages both Chills stores, on Hustonville Road and Lexington Road. The per-gallon prices at both stores ranged from $1.69.9 for regular unleaded, $1.79.9 for unleaded plus and $1.89.9 for unleaded premium.

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"The big jump occurred two to three weeks ago when, on one day, the per gallon price jumped 20 cents," she said. "It then went down 8 cents or so the next day, and then jumped back up 20 cents. It was just a couple or so weeks ago that the price of a gallon of regular unleaded was $1.44.9 or so."

As the prices have increased, so has the anger of customers - a feeling Brock shares.

"People are very unhappy," she said. "We've had more drive-offs than I can remember, as a lot of people are driving through one station after another, checking out the prices on the pumps, trying to find the lowest price."

In a random check of per-gallon gas prices in the area Wednesday morning - most of them for self-service gas - the general range was $1.69.9 for regular unleaded, $1.79.9 for unleaded plus and $1.89.9 for premium unleaded, with prices at some places running a couple of cents higher or lower.

"Folks aren't pleased, but we're pretty much seeing the same customers. They really don't have a lot of other gas stations to go to out here anyway," said Cynthiana Wardlow of Exxon Express in Waynesburg, where the per-gallon prices were $1.69.9, $1.79.9 and $1.89.9, all "a little less" than they had been just a couple of days ago.

Danny White of Hilltop Shell in Harrodsburg said his station was charging $1.74.9, $1.84.9 and $1.94.9, each price per grade 22 cents higher than it was a couple of weeks ago.

"Nobody's glad about the high price of gas, including me, but about the same number of people are buying," said White. "Of course, we're all hoping the prices will start going down after Labor Day. Prices always seem to rise around Labor Day."

Pattie Wilson of Don and Pattie's Service Station in Junction City said she and her husband have heard the grumbling from customers, but not a decrease in their numbers. Prices per gallon at her station, which is full-service, were $1.69.9 for regular and $1.75.9 for plus. Her station doesn't carry premium gas.

"The recent price hikes have been upsetting to people, and that upsets us because they're good, working people, and most of them also are our family and friends," said Wilson. "But we just tell them there's nothing we can do, that prices are set on up the ladder by the gas and oil companies."

Ashley Thornton of Danville wishes the oil companies would think more about people like her, on the lower rung of the ladder, when they set gas prices.

"I wish gas prices would go down. If they go any higher, I don't know what I'll do," said Thornton as she filled her vehicle's tank at the Chills on Lexington Road.

Thornton, 21, attends Central Kentucky Technical School and lives with her parents. She is looking for a job.

"I really can't afford these prices," said Thornton. "I don't want to be a financial burden to my parents any more than I already am but having to pay high gas prices doesn't help.

"I really hope I can find a job soon, but if gas prices continue going higher, I'd hate to think how much gas would take from a paycheck."

Several customers had, like Thornton, plenty to say in assessing the high price of gas. But some customers were very brief - like Randall Baxter of Danville, filling up his vehicle at the Log Cabin Shell on East Main Street, where prices were $1.73.9, $1.83.9 and $1.93.9 per gallon or, as he noted, 60 to 80 cents higher than a year ago.

"I think it sucks," he said.

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