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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bypassing BP gas? You're hurting small business.

by folkbum

I get the desire to stop putting money into BP's tank, so to speak. Problem is, the BP stations you're driving past are not actually owned by BP. NPR fills us up in:
The anger against BP has prompted some to picket in front of BP-branded gas stations. Jesse Jackson has called for a BP boycott. But BP sold off its retail gas business. Now, the people who own the 13,000 BP gas stations are generally independent franchisees, like the Camachos.

Betty Camacho says people associate her independent business with what's happening in the Gulf of Mexico. "I can see my volume is not the same," she says. "I can see that they are not coming." [. . .]

The Camachos find it ironic that they should pay the price for their affiliation with BP.

Betty Camacho says she's fought with the company, mostly over its rules.

She says BP typically charges several cents more per gallon than wholesale market rates. Also, BP requires the station to run all gas-related credit card payments through BP's processing system. She says that hamstrings her shop's cash flow because the money doesn't post to their account until seven days later. [. . .] And now the business faces a cash crunch. To demonstrate this, she produces her latest business account statement. She has a negative balance of $9,623.88.
BP is soaking its franchisees on one end, and boycotters are starving them at the other.

BP needs punishing, and I totally recognize both the right and the responsibility of the consumer to take on that task. But the immediate impact of things like a boycott is to punish 13,000 small business owners who didn't screw up in the Gulf. If anything, stop driving completely until they cap the well if you want to make a statement.

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