Strangely enough, we drove by this gas station the other day on our way from the North Park Village Nature Center, looking for gasoline.
Since the middle of the summer, those who’ve driven through the intersection of Irving Park and Pulaski Roads regularly, as I do, have probably been struck by the staggeringly high gas prices at the Shell mini-mart on the northwest corner.
How high? Sometimes a dollar per gallon higher than the price at the Mobil mini-mart just across Pulaski and higher than any other price in the city or suburbs. So high it was rare to see a customer at the pumps.
“I’ve been scratching my head about it just like everyone else,” said the local alderman, Margaret Laurino (39th). “If I ever see a car there, I wonder what the driver’s thinking.”
The average price for a gallon of regular in the Chicago area Monday was $1.83, according to AAA. The Mobil station at Irving and Pulaski was selling it for $2. The Shell at North Avenue and LaSalle Street, traditionally one of the priciest gas stations in the continental U.S., was charging $2.36.
The Irving/Pulaski Shell? $2.80.
I live nearby, and the most popular theory among the neighbors is that the same man owns both stations and is using asymmetrical pricing to drive customer traffic to the Mobil, which was remodeled this year to include a sandwich counter and a doughnut franchise.
We bypassed this place and purchased gas elsewhere. The comments to Eric Zorn’s post are interesting: seems to be a common theme that Shell is possibly trying to shut down stations so that they can increase demand while reducing supply. And we aren’t the only citizens to notice that gasoline prices have dropped by half in a couple of months, leading to speculation that the whole thing was rigged.
On that topic, I actually think the high gasoline prices helped America in the long run: forcing some changes to policy, encouraging the sales of fuel efficient cars, encouraging discussion of public transit and national rail systems, yadda yadda. Short term pain for many, but long term benefits for us all.