Editorial

When “can you” conflicts with “should you”

Dianne St. Jean

Gas prices fluctuate in Valemount during highway closure.

A fatal traffic accident that happened on the morning of March 16 just east of the Tete Jaune junction on Highway 16 forced closure of the highway for most of the day.

No need to say that the highway is the major connection between BC and central Alberta, with literally hundreds of transport trucks and other vehicles passing through on their way to either the north or southern coasts, not to mention the traffic coming from the coasts heading east.

It seemed like it didn’t take very long until some residents began to notice something.

Once word got out that the highway was closed and the Village began taking in more and more delayed and stranded highway travellers, fuel prices at Petro Can went up as high as 1.12 and Shell followed, though not as bad, but still up to 1.05. Only Tempo remained below the dollar mark.

The next morning, Petro Can lowered their prices down to 1.03 along with Shell and both eventually went back down to just below a buck.

I received a phone call on Wednesday when this was happening and was already sending that week’s issue of the paper off to print. But what we didn’t have the timely opportunity to print still got around through phone calls and facebook. The story did not go away right away, at least within the community.

The frustration some people had along with the price hike is the fact that Petro Can has no signboard where a person can see the prices before they drive up to the pump. Once you’re there, you pay. One of the arguments in defense is that Petro Can users usually have Petro Can points which gives them a cent or two off the price anyway; but what about those that don’t and stop at the gas station for other reasons, like the prominent A & W? Besides, the spike in price more than absorbed the so-called savings of Point Card holders.

I did a bit of research on gas station price setting. The official posting from Petro Can states that prices for independently owned and operated sites are set by the operator, and although an independent retailer may be able to choose the price at their retail site, the need to remain competitive with the surrounding market means that ultimately the local market dictates the maximum price. Really – stranded motorists who have no other place to go than to our Village to refuel – competitive?

Petro-Can’s website even goes further to post a “study” supposedly debunking the “myth” that prices go up around certain times, like long weekends. In other words, the coincidental hiking of prices is really all built up in the imagination of customers.

Really, no one is fooling anyone.

So what can you do about this? Other than griping and complaining about it, letting the gas station owners know how angry you feel for them taking advantage of the circumstances, refusing to purchase gas or anything else at their locations when they are doing this, or simply going to the next guy who treats his customers with respect…  absolutely nothing!