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Bad for Business

BP boycott could hurt local store owners.



As one of the few gas stations in downtown Memphis — and probably the only one that serves fried frog legs — the Riverside BP has developed a loyal customer base.

That's good news for manager Doug Ballinger, who says the national boycott on BP gas following the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico hasn't affected his business.

More than 400,000 people have signed up on Facebook to boycott BP. But Ballinger wants potential protesters to know that, even if they were boycotting his store, it wouldn't have much effect on the British oil giant's bottom line.

"There are a very small percentage of BP stores that are owned by BP. Every other one is run by a small business owner who has chosen to brand himself with BP gasoline," Ballinger says. "We buy our gas and diesel from BP, but that's our only affiliation with the company."

But if a store buys fuel from BP, wouldn't a boycott make some dent in the company's bottom line? Not at all, says Jeff Lenard, spokesperson for the National Association of Convenience Stores. He explains that oil companies refine gas at their own refineries, but that fuel goes into a pipeline with gas from other companies.

"The gas doesn't say BP on it. There's no BP gas until it shows up at the terminal," Lenard says. "At the terminal, an additive package is spritzed in, and that's where it becomes BP-branded gas.

"BP might be refining gas that somebody might be selling at a Mobil station. There's no way to say with certainty where the gas at a local gas station came from," Lenard adds.

Ballinger admits that his location on Riverside Drive and loyal customer base may save him from the boycott.

"I have not noticed one tiny bit of declining business, but we are in a unique location since there aren't a bunch of other choices around us," Ballinger says.

Lenard has spoken with store owners across the country, and while most of the multi-store owners he's talked to haven't seen a business decrease, he's worried about the 56 percent of store owners who own only one store or do not have a long relationship with their customers.

"I know people want to do something that will make a difference, but protesting BP stations is not hitting BP in the pocketbook," Lenard says. "So many businesses were affected by the oil spill. Let's not make it worse for other businesses."

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