Gas station owners: No panic buying before price increase

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Drivers purchase fuel at the NP gas station at Mon Repos on Tuesday. – Lincoln Holder

WHILE there was an increase in gas sales, there was no panic, said gas-station owner Roger Supersad.

He is the owner of the Unipet gas station along the Southern Main Road, Marabella.

Speaking with Newsday on Tuesday, he said it was surprising that the rush they anticipated and prepared for did not happen.

“We were open on Monday but the actual increase in sales was from Thursday morning to Sunday morning. It was an increase in sales but no panic buying.

“Today has been a slow day, I guess because customers are trying to adjust to the prices. For experience things will pick later on in the week and there will be a rush by Friday when people get paid, they will be in a better position to buy fuel.” Supersad said.

The fuel price increase, he said, brought no benefits to gas-station owners because they were still operating at a profit margin of 5.2 per cent.

“There is no fiscal benefit to us as dealers. We need a profit margin of 35 per cent to operate effectively. Out of $100 sale we get $5.20, and the rest goes back to replenishing stocks, pay staff and maintenance.

At the NP Royal Road gas station, manager Alisha Ali said they also experienced an influx of customers on Monday night, but it was something which usually happened when there was a price change.

“Between 10 pm and 11 pm there were long lines so I would say people were panic buying. At our location, Tuesdays are usually quiet but today is not a typical day, so we wait to see what happens later.”

There were mixed views by customers about the price increase.

Michael, who only gave his first name said, “I believe they could have gone another way and not put the increase on the consumer. They did what they had to do, and I don’t agree with it. There should have been a middle ground where both ends of the table could have had a mutual agreement to help lower the cost for the consumer.

“I think it is a strategy to fully remove the subsidy, they are gradually cushioning the impact. Once the final subsidy has been removed that the full impact will be felt along with the other socio-economic challenges.”

Pensioner Ian Miller said the fuel increases will not affect him because he has been making the necessary budgetary adjustments.

“Like everything else, I have to make adjustments and move on. I think the subsidy will eventually be removed regardless of which administration is in power. So, I just make my adjustments.”

Saleema Sattar, dealer at the NP Carousel station in Cocoyea, San Fernando, told Newsday, “I’m not sure if we can use today as a marker because a lot of the customers would have fill up their vehicles over the long weekend in anticipation of the price increase. Some of them did so yesterday, but my experience so far was that people spent the week last week keeping their tanks full rather than waiting to come last-minute to fill up so we were not very busy on Monday.”

“People tend to fill up their vehicles on a weekend anyway, before they go to work on a Monday. That’s a general thing and I think that it was just probably a little more heightened over the long weekend as everybody’s going back to school and so on. We’ll have to wait over the next couple of days to be able to see the consumer response a little bit better.”

“One dollar is a big jump from a price perspective and for that reason, obviously, it’s going to cost more to fill up the tank and people have to adjust. Some people may be able to adjust it and some people may not be. We have to wait and see these are unprecedented times.”

Eli Zakour manager of the gas station near Starlite said he expects a change in customer spending at the pump. He hopes gas station dealers can find ways to cushion the ripple effects of the price increase.
(With reporting by Elizabeth Gonzales.)