Restrooms and restaurants could increase your gas prices - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Restrooms and restaurants could increase your gas prices


Gas prices may be trending downwards, but plenty of East Texans say they're still paying more than their neighbors in other cities. Viewers have reported gas prices as much as 40 cents higher than they are in East Texas towns just miles down the road from them.

"In Tyler, at the Chapel Hill Valero, gas was $3.17 a gallon. At Sam's club, it was $3 a gallon and at a Valero down on the loop, it was $3.07 a gallon," explains Harold Doty, the University of Texas at  Tyler Assistant Vice President of Strategic Initiatives.

Doty says the reason behind all the different prices has to do with zone pricing. That's when an oil company boosts their own profits by charging gasoline retailers different prices for gasoline based on different factors.

Some of those include the gas station's location, the traffic volume they see each day, what amenities the store has to offer-- such as new restrooms or restaurants-- and the strength of nearby competitors.

"Well that's just plain crazy because you're not buying the restaurant or the restroom, you're buying the gas, says Cynthia Garcia, a gas station customer.

"You can have the cleanest restaurant and the best food and everything but they'll leave your restaurant and go right across the street to buy cheaper gas," says Kenneth Baulkmon, who was buying gas Tuesday night. 

"They're going to use any factor they can that will allow them to raise the price of the product at that location," says Doty.

Doty says most gas stations don't make their profits off the gas itself  but the snacks and sodas they sell inside.

"At some other gas stations, they'll almost sell gas at cost trying to lure people into the store to buy higher priced items," he explains.

"It's just another way that us poor middle class Americans are gouged on a daily basis," Garcia says.

However, no matter the price, you're still buying the same pack of gum and the same unleaded gasoline.

"Regardless if gas goes up to $5, you're not going to see people coming around here on horses they're still going to buy gas," Baulkmon says.

The pricing differences have been challenged in the past, but gas companies have been supported by the federal trade commission. They say the impact that fluctuating gas prices has on consumers isn't clear enough to declare zone pricing as illegal.

For a slideshow of gas price photos from around East Texas, click here.

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