STRAIT ON: Gasoline and the consumer’s dilemma

Photo by Rusty Strait / The Valley Chronicle
One wonders if the advertised additives are really worth the price.

■ by Rusty Strait / Senior Reporter

While driving down Florida Avenue in Hemet this past week, I took notice of gasoline stations and the differentials in price per gallon. Why, I asked myself, does The Gas Mart, an independent station charge $2.27 and 9/10ths per a gallon of regular, while Mobil, less than a block away charges $2.49, and just a few blocks away at Shell, the price is $2.77? That’s a fifty-cents difference from independent to brand name? I’ve tried both the high cost brand name and and the low cost independent and noticed no difference in the performance of my vehicle, and wondered why I might choose to spend half-a-dollar more or save it in my coin jar. I’m sure many of you have asked yourself the same question. I decided to do some research and came up with some amazing answers.
I am reliably informed through fuel sources that most gasoline leaves the same refineries. The brand products purchased at the major outlets, i.e., Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron are like other brand products: THEY ADVERTISE! Advertising on a national level is not cheap. That cost is passed onto the consumer – YOU! Also, we are promised a better quality fuel because this brand or the other provides an “additive” to make the product more powerful or potent or whatever you want to call that extra-special performance enhancer.
Here are some facts I learned from a fuel-evaluating source. FACT: 99% of gasoline in the United States of America is of good quality. So what makes brand ABC different from brand XYZ – the additives. Further FACT: All gasoline in the United States contains additives in order to meet federal standards set by the EPA – even that sold at the no-name stations.
The powerful additive that goes into an 8,000 gallon tank of gas from the refinery is one quart at one of our big brand stations, and for that you pay an additional half-dollar per gallon.

Photo by Rusty Strait / The Valley Chronicle
Brand is everything when it comes to gasoline.

Consumer Reports attempted to test the difference between brand additives in relation to acceleration and fuel economy, but scrapped the test “because the little differences” between brand of gasoline in relation to acceleration and fuel economy were no more than the differences found from other factors.
However, there IS a difference between premium (91 octane) and regular (87 octane). Premium gas IS better. High octane is preferred in vehicles designed for high octane. It is wasted on vehicles engineered to run on 87 octane. That is the opinion of experts in the field.
Some folks will drive several miles to get their brand of gasoline. Their parents used that brand as did their grandparents. They are satisfied customers. I remember my grandmother would only drink percolated coffee. Instant coffee had just come onto the market and she swore she’d never drink “that stuff.” I switched her cup one morning while I fixed my usual cup of instant. I commented on how much I liked the instant. Her comment: “I’ll stick to my percolated coffee, if you don’t mind.” She was drinking instant.
People get adjusted to paying more or refusing to change because of habit – but if you don’t need to waste your money, why do it? I’m sure I’ll get rebuttals.
I could make these same comparisons with other products. Why do people buy from Saks Fifth Avenue when they can get the same product for lower cost at the local department store? Why buy name brand shoes or jeans? Advertising my friend. Advertising.
Just sayin’.

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