station owner protests prices

Wisconsin operator shutters fuel pumps for 24 hours.

A Mequon, Wis. Mobil dealer shutter his gas pumps for 24 hours, hoping to start a movement aimed at convincing oil companies to lower their prices.

“Somebody out there is making money at these prices, but not me,” Harvey Pollack, operator of the Towne Market Mobil, told the Associated Press. “So I just thought: ‘What can I do to help the consumer?’”

Yellow caution tape surrounded Pollack’s six idle pumps for his protest, which drew dozens of drivers. One in a green minivan rolled down her window and shouted “Thank you!”

Jack Sobczak, general sales manager for Lakeside Oil Co., a contracted Mobil distributor that supplies Pollack’s station, said the protest probably won’t make much of a statement. “The demand will just move down the street to the next Mobil station,” he said.

Pollack and station general manager John Schwartz agreed to experiment with a pump shutdown after an Internet-based push for a one-day gas boycott went largely unheeded last week, according to the report.

“Somebody’s got to be the first to try this,” Schwartz said.

The Mequon station sells about 3,500 gallons of gas a day, Pollack said. He estimated the station would lose only $1,500 on the protest because some losses in gas would be made up by people buying convenience store items or more gas when the station reopened Friday.

Accordint to the report, Pollack bought the gas station in 2003 as an investment but he has not turned a profit in 30 months because gas margins are razor thin and he cannot sell enough volume to compensate. The company usually makes 8 to 12 cents per gallon after suppliers’ prices and credit card fees. On Wednesday — the day before the protest — that added up to $3.49 for a gallon of unleaded gas.

Schwartz called that “outrageous” and said even he can’t fill up his SUV at that price.

The protest came as several Wisconsin service stations announced they would no longer sell gas because they make little or no profit on it after they pay wholesalers, credit card fees and taxes. They said they would focus on auto repairs instead.

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