Saturday, November 24, 2012

Gas Wars - St. John's Style

Here in St. John's we have a gas pricing system where the Public Utilities Board sets the maximum gas price every Thursday.  For the longest while this was always the price that everyone charged... and then along came Costco.  About 6 months ago, Costco set up a gas bar with 12 pumps and they started charging $0.03 lower than the maximum.  Then some stations started trying to match Costco and Costco would subsequently drop their price to $0.03 less that that.

Sometimes it gets more complicated.  Gas stations close to Costco will drop their prices to try and match while those farther away will not.  At some times the summer Costco gas was $0.08 a litre less than some other stations in the city, most notably those on Kenmount Road where I was working at the time.  Then in the middle of the week Costco will drop and raise prices so the price can change from day to day as opposed to the weekly change we are used to.

The downside to buying gas at Costco is that you are guaranteed to have to line up unless you go after the store closes.... which is what I normally do.  The gas bar stays open for an hour or so after store closing, normally there is not much of a wait at that time.  I've seen some huge gas line ups at Costco, for me it's not worth it to save $2 on a fill up.  I also find that a lot of people have trouble figuring out the card swipe system at the pumps which can be frustrating.  I've gotten a fill up in the time it takes some people to figure out how to pay for their gas.

Ultramar has taken some steps to combat Costco, you can get a free Ultramar Card that gives you $0.02 off every litre of gas you buy at Ultramar Cornerstore Gas Stations and you get $0.035 off on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Normally gas is $0.03 more at Ultramar so worst case scenario you pay $0.01 per litre more with the Ultramar Gas Card.  It`s not like a credit card or anything, I guess they use it to track what you buy with your gas.  Even if you buy a bag of chips they make back the money you save on the gas.  Of course if you go to Costco you probably spent $300 while you save $2 on gas.

If you go to the website above you can see the latest gas prices in Newfoundland  a useful tool if you want to squeeze the most out of your fossil fuel dollar.

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