Fuel duel: Fire marshal ends gas war on Prince

Gas prices dropped to 49.9 cents a gallon Wednesday at the Allsup’s at the corner of Prince Street and Llano Estacado. (Staff photo: Andy DeLislie)

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

When a fevered gas war between rival convenience stores snarled traffic at one of the city’s busiest intersections Wednesday afternoon, Clovis Fire Marshal Allan Silvers had seen enough.

Silvers said with about 200 vehicles lined up to buy cheap gas, blocking the stores and a local fire station, he put an end to the battle because the traffic was a public safety hazard.

“If (they) couldn’t take care of the situation themselves, I advised both managers as well as one of the owners I would be forced to shut them down,” he said.

In response, Allsup’s raised its fuel price from 49.9 cents to $2.83.9 a gallon and Town & Country raised its 99.9 cents per gallon price tag to $2.86.9 Silvers said.
“If anyone in any of those vehicles had a medical emergency arise we couldn’t have gotten to them and there was no way for us to get onto either property.

They were in violation of fire codes requiring clear access to private property and public streets. This is not safe and it’s not going to happen,” Silvers said.

The stations attracted attention Tuesday when they began rapidly dropping their prices in competition, ending the day around $2.39 per gallon. The price skirmish between the two has been ongoing for a couple weeks, according to Dan McCurdy, Director of Communication for Town and Country Food Stores.

“As a retailer we’re pleased to see this situation come to an end and we’re more than pleased that many of our customers had an opportunity to benefit,” McCurdy said.

McCurdy said Tuesday the price war is a matter of maintaining Town and Country’s customer base.

“We’re not going to lose our customers because they’re offering a lower price,” McCurdy said. “We are going to insure our customers that we are going to offer them competitive prices and products.”

Allsup’s managers at the store declined comment.
A woman who answered the phone at the corporate office said “I don’t believe they’ll be commenting.”

Say What?

• Nathan Montano was visiting his aunt when she told him gas was down to 49.9 cents at the Allsup’s on North Prince.

The deal was too good to pass up for him, he said.

“It usually takes around 30 bucks to fill my car.”

• Crystal Espinoza said she finished her test at Clovis Community College and rushed to Allsup’s after hearing about the low gas prices. Driving a large truck, she said she normally pays about $70 at the pump.

“You can’t pass up 49 cents, I’m excited,” she said after 30 minutes in line. “Even if you had a little Civic it would still be great.”

• After spending well over an hour in line, Jeanette Cordova was two cars away from the pump at Allsup’s.

“It’s hot,” she said, with a smile on her face.

At work when she heard the news, Cordova said she rushed right over to get a deal.

“I wanted to wait,” she said, explaining she was glad to learn she would get the
advertised 49.9 cents even after it was raised. “I was upset when it changed,” she said.

Price not always right

While dozens of drivers converged on two Clovis convenience stores engaged in a price war Wednesday, others found the situation less than convenient, choosing instead to drive around the corner to a gas station with a price of $2.26.9 a gallon.

Lines began to form as an unmanned pay-at-the-pumps gas station in the Wal-Mart parking lot attracted customers who did not want to wait in line at the feuding Allsup’s and Town and Country less than a block away.

Bill Aylesworth of Clovis was filling his travel trailer. “I can’t afford to stand in line,” he said. At approximately $100 to fill up his trailer, he said 49.9 cents was appealing but not enough to get in line.

Ashley Kidd also chose the path of least resistance. Even though her truck guzzles $65 to $75 with ease, she said.

“I have to get back to work.”

More on gas The wholesale price of gas reflected in the stock market does not indicate the cost a retail gas station operator pays to fill it’s pumps, according to AAA of New Mexico.
The cost shown in the markets is the only the cost of gas at the refineries and does not take into consideration additional costs to the retailer before it reaches the pump, Jeannie Chavez, AAA spokeswoman said.

Wednesday the New York Stock Exchange reported gas prices at $2.28 a gallon at closing according to AAA New Mexico.

After a New Mexico retailer pays environmental fees, state and federal taxes, approximately 35 cents is added per gallon, she said. Beyond taxes, the retailer still has to figure in overhead and distribution costs.

While individual costs have many variables and each store has it’s own expenses, the bottom line wholesale costs don’t offer a lot of wiggle room for retailers, Chavez said.

With the current climate in the oil markets, times are tough both for retailers and consumers, Chavez explained. “The difference between wholesale and retail is not pure profit,” she said.

Taxes retailers pay per gallon of gas
• Federal: 18.4%
• New Mexico state taxes: 18.9%
• Texas state taxes: 20%
— Source: AAA New Mexico

Gas price averages as of Wednesday
• Clovis $2.83
• Portales $2.82
• Amarillo $2.95
• Albuquerque $2.99
• New Mexico $3.03
• Texas $2.91
— Source: AAA New Mexico. The cost of gas at the two Clovis stations were not calculated into these averages.

Gas saving tip: Driver who keeps vehicle tires aired correctly, performs maintenance on their car regularly, and drives at or below 55 mph can save roughly $780 per year in fuel costs.
— AAA New Mexico, based on state driver data and average fuel costs