As gas prices continue to soar, the squeeze is on both consumers and merchants. Abdel Darras is owner and part-time operator of the BP station at Union and Myrtle. On a recent afternoon, he is busy as customers stream in and out to pay for gas, buy hot food, and purchase cigarettes and lottery tickets. But Darras is concerned that his customers don't understand the situation that gas prices create for businesspeople like him. -- By Ben Popper
Flyer: Have you noticed a drop in the number of customers purchasing gas?
Darras: Oh yes, definitely. It has been a gradual decline, but once the prices started climbing over $2.40, I started to see a change. I would say that now I'm doing about 20 percent less business than before. Of course, a lot less people are buying premium gas and everyone is spending less money inside the store.
Do people blame you for the cost of gas?
A lot of people come inside and complain because they think it's my fault. I don't set my own prices. I used to see a profit of maybe 5 or 6 cents a gallon. Now I'm lucky to get 1, maybe 1 and a half cents. People think we're gouging them, but it's just the opposite. How do you set your price?
The refinery sets our price; they call us every day.
What do you think is causing the price increase?
Well, I think a part of the problem is not enough supply, but I think the main problem is the market. We have to go by the price of petrol, and overanxious investors are causing a lot of the price inflation.
Are you worried?
I've been in the gas business for 15 years. I am worried because I don't think the prices will ever go back to their original levels. I was selling gas in 2000 at 77 cents a gallon. That will never happen again.