Indiana Daily Student

Recent gas price hike leads to increasing number of drive-off thefts at pumps

Customers irritated by policy to pay before fueling

As gasoline prices increase, so does the temptation for customers to drive away from convenience store pumps without paying for their gasoline.\nGas purchaser Jack Barger said his organization experiences approximately two drive-offs per store each week. He does point out, however, that some stores are more vulnerable than others. \n"As an organization, we lose about $3,500 a day in drive-offs," Barger said. "Almost none of that is recovered."\nBarger said his company receives little assistance from law enforcement officials in recovering payment for stolen gasoline. \n"They consider it petty theft," Barger said. "They think we should be more responsible in watching the pumps and making customers pay before they pump."\nBarger said customers become irritated with the requirement to pay before pumping gasoline. He said his company is reluctant to impose that requirement on its customers. \nBarger said there has only been a slight increase in drive-offs since gasoline prices have risen. But drive-offs that occur when prices are high are more costly, he said.\n"There is a lot of anger toward the oil industry," Barger said. "Gas is essential in our society and people will do what they have to in order to get gas."\nBarger said an average gas station will pump 3,000 gallons of fuel a day. He said the typical profit is 10 cents per gallon. He also said a large part of a store's profit goes to pay credit card transaction fees. \nScot Imus, executive director of the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, said convenience stores spend about 70 percent of their profit on credit and debit card transaction fees. He said it is not uncommon for a credit card company to make more than a retailer on a gasoline purchase, and that retailers try to keep their prices competitive to attract customers to their store.\n"Consumers are less willing to buy items like chips and sodas if gas prices are high," Imus said. "One $40 drive-off can take days for the retailer to overcome."\nMaggie McShane, executive director of the Indiana Petroleum Council, said gasoline is in very high demand.\nHurricane Katrina came at a time when oil production was already operating at near capacity, she said. Plants in the United States were running at 98 percent capacity before the storm hit, and about 5 percent of gas production in the United States is down at this time. \n"The hurricane hit an area where oil and gas production is concentrated. It has had an immediate effect on fuel prices," McShane said. "It hit the heart and soul of the oil industry at full force."\nShe said because Indiana is landlocked, it receives all its oil via pipeline. The problem encountered with the strike of the hurricane was oil couldn't be sent because there was no electrical power. She said the pipelines are now delivering oil at an amount that is near their former rates. \n"There is such a high demand for fuel now," McShane said. "Indiana is using every drop of gasoline it can get"

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