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What would you do?

Published:

Last Edited: December 10, 2007, 5:44 pm

Last night what was supposed to be a 5 minute telephone chat with a friend turned out to be a long debate.  If you didn't hear the story on the evening news or read about it in the paper, you can Google words like Wisconsin, gas station, 33 cents and get several articles. 

She was trying to convince me that the people who filled up for 33 cents a gallon weren't stealing.  The problem is, when someone asks you your opinion, she shouldn't get upset and yell at you when you give it.  I guess we all do that once in a while.  "What do you think of...  ?" and expect to receive an answer we like. 

Well, I did give an answer, and this is what I said.  If I filled up my car today at my local Shell station and my credit card receipt was under $5 bucks, I'd know something was wrong and report it to the station and pay the correct amount. Am I wealthy?  No, far from it, and neither is the gas station owner or the people who work there. 

I asked her what she'd do if she went to the bank, requested $100 and when she got home there was $200 in the envelope the teller gave her. When she checked her bank statement, only $100 was deducted from her account that day.  Would she call the bank? I know she would if the situation were reversed. 

My answer was plain and simple.  They were wrong. They were taking advantage of a huge goof and stealing from the gas station owner, not showing any concern about the attendant who obviously made an innocent mistake. 

Am I a saint?  Not even close.  I won't list all the things I've done that are probably going on my 'permanent record.'  LOL   

So please answer honestly.  No personal attacks please on me or anyone else who posts a response.  Thank you. 

Entry #100

Comments

1.
ThatScaryChickComment by ThatScaryChick - December 10, 2007, 5:47 pm
Honestly with gas prices so high it would be so tempting to take advantage of something like that, but as someone who is doesn't like to take advantage of people and has a consious, I would have told the gas station attendant about the mistake as soon as I saw it.

Now is it stealing? I think maybe. Why? Well although it was a mistake on the gas owners part or the attendant, maybe some people honestly thought there was some type of deal going on. (I highly doubt that though) Plus, I remember a story when gas prices were going up a couple of years ago there were some gas stations that would let people gas up for an hour or two for way below the regular price (for a promotion type thing) so maybe they thought it was some type of promotion like that. However, I think most people who took advantage of this situation, probably knew it wasn't something like that and yes, they knowingly took the chance for "free" gas. It was wrong, but if they paid 33 cents for the gas they technically didn't steal it, but they sure took advantage of the situation.
2.
justxploringComment by justxploring - December 10, 2007, 6:17 pm
Hi ScaryChick. What happened is that the gas station was closed. It was hours before the police showed up and only because of the mob that attracted attention in a small town. The attendant had set the pumps and locked up for the evening, but they were still turned on for people driving by with a credit card.

I'm 56 and I've never spent 33 cents for gas in my life. I remember paying 50 cents a gallon when I was a teenager, so I would never think it was a promotion. People who were lined up drove there specifically to get the gas because of word of mouth.

In Fort Myers up the road a bit this happened too. It was during the day and the attendant changed the price in the morning and forgot to add the extra 9. That's what happend in WI. It's never 3.19 a gallon but 3.199. I'm not sure if someone went in to report it or he just realized that there was a problem and shut off the pumps until he could correct the price.

Thank you for posting. here's one link.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071208/ap_on_fe_st/odd33_cent_gas
3.
ThatScaryChickComment by ThatScaryChick - December 10, 2007, 6:35 pm
Hey Justxploring!

Ok, I didn't read the story the first go 'round and I should have, sorry. =)

Well that is a different story. Those people who took the gas in my opinion really took advantage of a mistake and are horrible people, but I don't if they can be charged with theft. It says that they paid with their credit cards so I guess they can find out who bought some gas and ban them maybe?, but I don't think they can be charged because the gas attendant made the price mistake and the customers took advantage of it.

Oh I agree about the 33 cents was never common, but I remember here in Idaho there was some promotion where a gas station owner had sold gas for a $1.50 or something for about an hour or two and the news was there and the gas station had long lines. It was kind of a big deal.

Of course it is nothing like the story you posted.
4.
ToadSchmodeComment by ToadSchmode - December 10, 2007, 6:42 pm
"Am I wealthy? No, far from it, and neither is the gas station owner or the people who work there."

I think the gas station owner is wealthy!

If i was getting gas and that's all they charged and the station was closed, i'd probably not think anything of it and go on my merry way...
I wouldn't call up everyone i know and if someone called me i surely wouldn't run down and wait in line to get gas even if it was free.
5.
justxploringComment by justxploring - December 10, 2007, 6:58 pm
Toad, I was going to wait for more posts, since I said this wouldn't be a debate and it isn't. So I won't argue about it, but in case you didn't know, the average profit on a gallon of gas is around 3.6 cents. That's why so many stations sell coffee and snacks. They make a lot more on a hot dog and a coke than on a gallon of gas.
6.
ToadSchmodeComment by ToadSchmode - December 10, 2007, 7:12 pm
Being a gambling man, i'd be willing to wager the "Owner of the station is a millionaire"

7.
JAP69Comment by JAP69 - December 10, 2007, 8:49 pm
They paid the posted price so it was not stealing.
However they obviously knew it was wrong and did take advantage of the situation.. Maybe with a guilty conscious.
8.
TenajComment by Tenaj - December 10, 2007, 9:09 pm
The situation was more like a lack of integrity with a temptation so great - it resulted in stealing. Anytime you take something that doesn't belong to you without permission and do not pay for it - it is stealing - regardless of how great the temptation was or how it happened. It's like - do you alert the cashier if she gives you back too much change?
9.
rcbbuckeyeComment by rcbbuckeye - December 10, 2007, 11:54 pm
Well, human nature being what it is, we tend to justify our actions, when in fact we know when we are not totally honest. Where I buy my tickets, a couple of times the lady that owns the store has given me too much money back in change, and I correct her and make it right. And yes, I'm tempted to let it go and keep the money, because I'm human, certainly not perfect. Same thing, except on a much bigger scale with the gas. People give in to temptation knowing it's not right, but justify their actions, ie; the gas station owners are rich, when they are probably not, which is irrelevant.
Justxploring, my first car was a VW Beetle, and I remember stopping at the gas station down the road from where I grew up and buying 50 cents worth of gas, which bought me a gallon. I could drive about 30 miles on that. Boy that brought memories! LOL
10.
justxploringComment by justxploring - December 11, 2007, 12:53 am
That was my first car too, rcbbuckeye.   It was orange-ish red. (or reddish orange :-)   
I always say I'm not perfect and definitely have made some bad decisions in my life. I still do. But everytime we do something that isn't moral, we are only hurting ourselves. I guess it depends on what you feel about an afterlife and the purification of mind, body, spirit.
11.
LANTERNComment by LANTERN - December 11, 2007, 2:26 am
justxploring

You are of course right, while those people could not be charged with stealing, because legally they were not, morally they were, but perhaps not all of them, as some people might had thought that that was really the right price, not everybody is bright enough to figure such or some things out by themselves.
And no, I am not trying to put some of those people down.
12.
Comment by pacattack05 - December 11, 2007, 7:45 am
Knowing that it would come out of the cashier's pocket, I would say something. Since the station was closed at the time, the owner messed up, and I doubt he or she would expect all those people to show up with the difference.

If I knew it was coming out of the pockets of those greedy oil companies and big wigs, I'd have no problem sleeping that night. Those commoditiy exchange folks are to blame too, considering everytime there is a small hiccup in the news about Iran or something, they think they have the right to increase the price.
We have plenty of oil right here in the U.S., in Alaska, but the tree huggers are stopping the drilling. Let them pay the difference in the price and then they can save all the owls, moose, or whatever it is they are protecting.
13.
Rick GComment by Rick G - December 11, 2007, 8:38 am
The people who took advantage of the "deal" should make that gas station their only source of gas from now on. By consciously giving him more business in the future his loss will be minimized somewhat and they will be slowly paying him back.
14.
Comment by pacattack05 - December 11, 2007, 9:11 am
Rick G, you are brilliant as always. Unless it was a Citgo station, which only Hugo Chavez profits the most...lol

DO NOT BUY GAS AT CITGO, and pass this around to everyone you know.
15.
justxploringComment by justxploring - December 11, 2007, 2:34 pm
Pac write: "Since the station was closed at the time, the owner messed up,"

Pac, perhaps you didn't read the news article. It clearly states that the gas station attendant whose job it is to change the price (and he's done it 25 times over the past year!) goofed by forgetting to add the extra nine so the pump read it as 32.9 instead of .99 If you look at a pump it always has that extra 9. Anyway, the manager said he wouldn't be fired, but I wonder if people will anonymously return some of the money. That would be an interesting idea - run an article saying it will come out of his paycheck and see if guilt takes over. What would happen, unfortunately, is regular customers might get angry at the gas station owner and stop patronizing it. Yes, Rick's idea is good, but to me it's amazing what people will do for a lousy $30 or $40 bucks.

Anyone see The Family Man with Nicholas Cage? Remember when the angel played by Don Cheadle, is working at a convenience store and gives a young woman too much change? He makes a comment like "over a few bucks" meaning that she sold her integrity. I know it was a comedy, but it was about living your life for the things that really matter. Actually, I couldn't see why Nicholas Cage and Tia Leone couldn't be happy and millionaires at the same time. :-)
16.
Comment by pacattack05 - December 11, 2007, 3:04 pm
Justx....If he messed up 25 times before this event, he should have been fired a long time ago.
I would fire someone if they priced the pump at 32.90 a gallon..wow...! 32 bucks a gallon times 20 gallons?
600 bucks to fill up? X25 times X how many cars? equals thousands... WOW!
17.
Comment by jim695 - December 17, 2007, 2:28 pm
Good for you, Justx! If more people in this country felt the way you do about taking advantage of others, America would be a much nicer place to live.
   I can't help wondering why that first person would pull into a closed station and try to fill up. If I were a cop, I'd be inclined to believe the "mistake" was intentional. If not, how would anyone have known they could get cheap gas there? Regardless, the first person to discover the error should have reported it.
   A friend of mine owned a mini-mart in Wolf Lake for several years. He told me that these little stores operate on a profit margin similar to that of a large grocery store. His store is located along a state highway, so there's plenty of traffic, but Greg said his average profit on gasoline was around $500 a week; he was only a million dollars short of being a millionaire. He sold the store a couple of years ago and started his own drywall business.
   In order to stay competitive, prices on merchandise in those stores can't be much higher than we'd pay for the same item elsewhere. Most places make less than a nickel a gallon, which is less than they make on a lottery ticket. The insurance they're required to carry is prohibitively expensive, due mostly to their haz-mat liability. Justx is speaking the truth; they make more profit on a cup of coffee or a hot dog than they make on a gallon of gas.
   Anyway, if you put yourself in the station owner's shoes for a moment, the correct answer to this moral question will be obvious. We don't mind people ripping this guy off because we don't know who he is. If the same thing had happened to you, to a relative or to someone you know personally, you would be appalled that people would actually have the nerve to do something like that.
   I don't care how you spin it; this was wrong, plain and simple. However, it does tend to illustrate the direction in which this country is moving. We have little to fear from terrorists at this point, compared to the damage we'll do to ourselves and each other if we don't wake up and smell the freshly-brewed coffee.
   Jim
   Personally, I believe congress should do away with fractional pricing on gasoline because it's deceptive; you can never get that extra 1/10 cent into your tank.

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