Upshur Countians have long complained that they were being pinched at the gas pumps. From Facebook post to calls for boycotts, Upshur County citizens have frequently and, sometimes, loudly asked why gasoline prices were, noticeably, higher in Upshur County than in neighboring counties such as Lewis and Randolph. But, the complaints have never materialized into a decrease in prices at the pump, until now.
At press time, gas prices in Upshur County were averaging nearly 7 cents per gallon less than Lewis County, just a few miles away.
A drive down Route 20 from Rock Cave to Buckhannon shows regular grade gas prices at Village Hardware at $2.26 per gallon; Go-Mart, $2.29; Speedway, $2.29; and Sheetz, $2.29.
A drive, an approximate 10 miles West on Highway 33, shows that gas prices increase as soon as you cross the county line into Lewis County. Weston Sheetz and Go-Mart (along Rt 33) are selling regular grade gas for $2.36; Wal-Mart is one cent less, at $2.35. Gas stations in Jane Lew are averaging $2.37 per gallon.
But, that’s only part of the story.
If you continue travelling on Route 20 North to Hodgesville, the gas prices drop even lower. Bruce’s Store is selling gas at $2.19 per gallon if you pay in cash.
Jackie and Bruce Bennett, owners of Bruce’s Store, say they began lowering their cash only gas prices about three months ago. The decision was made, in part, because they purchased new gas pumps that allow consumers to choose a cash price or a credit price. Bruce explained that “some years ago, businesses used to offer a lower cash price,” but with the rise of credit card usage and a push from the credit card companies to keep stores from offering a lower cash price, businesses stopped offering it.”
However, said Bruce, “several years ago, the government made it illegal for credit card companies to contractually obligate a store owner to not offer a lower cash price,” but so much time had passed and so much money was invested in being able to accept credit cards that businesses were no longer interested in going back to having a different cash price.
“Businesses pay a price, every time we accept a credit card,” said Bruce. “If the customer pays in cash, we don’t have to pay that fee.”
After Jackie and Bruce bought the new pumps with an option for cash only pricing, the decision was made to go back to the old way of selling gas, and they placed a small sign with the new, lower, cash only price in the parking lot. Not long after the sign was placed, a customer started taking photos of it and then posting them on Facebook. The photos started circulating, widely, on social media… and Bruce’s Store started seeing an increase in business.
Three months later, Upshur County has lower gas prices than Lewis County.
So, is this a story of a mom and pop shop, successfully, helping lower gas prices throughout the county? The Bennett’s aren’t willing to go that far, but Jackie said, “I’d say we were the leaders of the pack.” Bruce Bennett said that all the gas stations in Upshur County are “good businesses. We don’t have anything against any of them. We’re just trying to drive business like everyone else.” “We have to survive,” Jackie added. Bruce explained that every business has its own business model and some costs vary from store to store. “We all try to stay competitive with our pricing. That’s just business.” When asked if business was up, Bruce nodded with a broad smile, and said, “yes, and that puts a smile on my face.”
At press time, Upshur County is on par with the West Virginia average of $2.23 per gallon. But, prices in Randolph County are averaging $2.19 per gallon and gas stations in Huntington are selling gas for less than $2.00 per gallon.
Could we see an even lower price at the pump in the near future? That question depends on more than just friendly competition. The price of crude oil, distribution, marketing and state and local taxes also factor, heavily, into the price at the pump, but a little competition doesn’t hurt.
Whatever the reason for the lower prices, for now, Upshur County gas consumers are the winners.