Consumer Activist Jamie Court calls it, “Capitulation, after you get bonked on the head by $4 gasoline enough times, maybe it doesn’t hurt as much. But there is still plenty of consumer angst bubbling under the outward signs of resignation.”
In 2008, when gas prices soared 35% in six months, Detroit automakers asked the federal government to bail them out. Gas prices are soaring again, yet the auto industry is booming. While it previously caused outrage, drivers now seem to take rising fuel costs in stride. Why?
The recent price rise of roughly 15% isn’t quite as bad as 2008. Gas-guzzlers are being replaced as new cars average nearly 17% better mileage than those purchased in 2008. According to the Federal Highway Administration, Americans drove 1% fewer miles last year compared with 2010, but the nation used 3% less motor fuel.
Americans have been driving less as each year passes. Virtual contact, all the different ways people use technology to stay in touch, Facebook, texting and Twitter, all entail that you don ’t need a car to hang out with friends. Because of the internet, fewer teenagers are bothering to get their drivers licenses. Years ago, gas and insurance were cheap, and cars were easy to fix. A kid could patch-up a clunker with parts from the junkyard, and cruise. Between $4 gas, high insurance and expensive cars that are complicated to repair, driving must be a daunting impossibility for many young people.
Gallup polled drivers, and found that 28% said a price point in the $4 range cause them to reduce spending in other areas. Some people just don’t drive as much and are careful to combine errands. But, at $5, over three-quarter of drivers say they would start changing spending habits. Gallup said , “There is room for a greater increase in gas prices before Americans say prices will cause widespread, serious consequences on their spending and lifestyle patterns.” So the oil companies know they have room to raise prices even higher.
Consumers need to be voracious in their complaints to the government and oil companies, especially where because of refinery and fuel blend issues, prices are higher than in other regions. The gas station owners are not to blame, and are being squeezed just like the average person. Consumers and gas station owners need to stay in touch with their representatives and suppliers to try and prevent even higher prices in the future.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (A.D.A.) is a law that was enacted by the U.S. Congress that prohibits, discrimination based on disability, defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.” The original intent of the law was to create civil rights law protections for people with disabilities that would prohibit all discrimination. It was intended to be a flexible set of laws that could only be strengthened, not weakened, by future case law. One pending six-figure lawsuit involves a legally blind man and his seeing-eye dog being asked to leave a business. No individual may be discriminated against on the basis of disability with regards to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation.
In this multi-cultural world in which we live, those of us who operate gas/station convenience stores have to be sensitive to this issue that may encompass seeing-eye dogs, or people with physical or mental handicaps. So please be aware and perceptive to the needs of handicapped individuals. It is not only the right thing to do; it can prevent unnecessary future litigation.
Entering the Institute, there were many mentally handicapped people being cared for by teachers and volunteers. One young man was upset and screeching and hitting and bashing himself in the head over and over. Transcending any creed, the kindness and patience that was shown to this man was inspirational and humbling. This care was humankind at its best. Witnessing this episode would make a healthy person feel shame about anguishing over some of life’s trivial problems.
Societal problems linked to poverty are in the forefront of our culture’s lexicon. Holy Family Institute does its best to address these tribulations, quandaries, and so much more. While its name denotes a religious connotation, it is truly a community-outreach organization. In Pittsburgh, Holy Family Institute extends services to at-risk children and families including: Residential Programs, In-home Family Counseling, Substance Abuse Services, Mental Health Counseling, Youth Workforce Development, Parent-Child Literacy Program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Energy Assistance Programs. But there is a limit to its economic resources.
Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Hope: Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.” While Holy Family Instituteaccomplishes so much good, becauseof opportunity cost, the presentdining room and hallway were cheerless.Countywide Petroleum chose to remodel and beautifythe dining room and hallway. Countywidebought new tables and chairs and othernecessary items to complete this transformation,and make the dining experiencethere pleasurable for everyone involved. Where we sit down to eat and whatwe see in our lives influences the waywe feel. The payoff is the dining roomis now bright, cheerful, magnificent, andfunctional, which will change the attitudesand aspirations and the quality oflife for the residents, students, familiesand staff that use the facility.
Change for Change
Residents in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas saw a donation-jug in over one-hundred gas station/convenience stores labeled “Change for Change.” They were in the “BP Fueland Stores,” and most Valero stores accompanied by a postcard that illustrates all of Holy Family Institute’s virtuous work. The money collected in these donation jugs went towards the dining room project at Holy Family Institute.
About BP’s Fueling Communities Program
The BP Fueling Communities Program provides grants to local organizations that are nominated by BP’s Branded Marketers to support the communities in which they do business. The Program gives back to local organizations that support health, education, youth, food and housing to spread charity and good will.
Countywide Petroleum Company is grateful for the previous help it received from the BP Fueling Communities Program in its quest to fight Ovarian Cancer and Hunger in Haiti, and to spread goodwill in its community. Countywide Petroleum Company looks forward to continuing to make a difference in the world in which we live. Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Tony Mazzarini Sr. came back from serving in the Air Force in WWII, and made a vow “I will never be poor again.” The son of courageous hard-working immigrants who left home and family in the 1920’s, and braved an ocean voyage to come through Ellis Island to America in search of a better life, for Tony Sr., childhood was often a struggle.
After the war, Tony Sr. worked with a kindly old-timer named Max Gilbert and a few years later, in 1949, with Max’s help and blessing, bought some property, put in a couple of tanks and an air compressor, constructed a building and opened up what today is Parkway Services. Tony’s father liked Amoco’s white gas and the way it made his Harley run. So for almost fifty years it was an Amoco Station until 1998, when Amoco was purchased by BP.
Tony Sr. had seven daughters and one son. Tony Jr. was the seventh. To the son, his father was incredibly hard working, ambitious, and successful. Traditional, Tony Sr. handled things when there was a problem; but the boy didn’t really get to know his Dad until he started working at the shop, around seventh grade. While coming from a humble background, Tony Sr. did well enough to send his son to one of the finest universities in the world. Today Tony Sr. is almost ninety years old and he and his wife spend most of their time at their home in Florida.
Tony Jr. was a starting linebacker for Columbia University and graduated with a degree in Economics. With a prodigious alumni network, Tony landed a job at a brokerage firm in the financial district. Smack dab in the middle of a boom, instant millions were made in this era; remember the film portraying that hedonistic world, “Wall Street.” Tony told his father that he wasn’t happy in his work or living in the fast lane. His father responded, “There’s always a job here for you.” How many celebrated athlete Ivy League educated economists return home and go into the family business?
Tony has been happily married for twenty-three years to his wife Michelle, a former teacher, who has a Master’s Degree in Mathematics. Tony says, “We are still in love.” They have three daughters and a son. So in the two households that Tony has lived in, there have been twelve women and only three men, so really, what chance did Tony have? Tony decided while he believed in his father’s work ethic, he vowed to be totally involved in his children’s lives. Like his father, Tony has been successful and caring enough to pay for his children’s education. Inside Tony’s station there are pictures of his beautiful family, and even his son’s football helmet.
Tony’s oldest Cara is just graduated from Villanova University. Cara earned a degree in Mechanical Nuclear Engineering, and chose to work for the government. Tony and Michelle are extremely proud that Cara was chosen to give a speech to her Engineering Graduating Class, and that they were so impressed with her, they asked her to give that speech a second time at the entire university’s graduation. Tony was overcome with emotion, watching his oldest child move on to the next exciting chapter in her life, educated, prepared, confident and loved.
A second daughter Alyssa followed her sister to Villanova and is studying to be a Certified Public Accountant. At Chartiers Valley High School, Alyssa was the starting center on a basketball team that had the courage to make it to the State Championship Game. Alyssa just finished her first half-marathon. Tony thinks Alyssa will be very successful at business.
Their third child, Anthony Joseph III or “AJ” will be graduating from Chartiers Valley High School where he was a starter on the contending football team. AJ will attend Penn State in the fall and undertake a new program that combines Business and Environmental study. Tony coached youth football for fourteen years, even after AJ had moved on. If sometime in the future, AJ says to his father, “Dad, I don’t really like this career path I have chosen,” Tony just might say, “There’s always a job here for you.”
Tony’s youngest Amanda is in high school and likes sports and girl stuff. She excels in basketball and volleyball and like her siblings; she participates in youth missions that are associated with her parish, Our Lady of Grace. Tony is involved in his parish and active in his community and. For some, loving a child is looking into God’s eyes.
Tony has wonderful things to say about his employees. Like family to him is Rosalie Pabis, his trusted and devoted bookkeeper for over thirty years. “With over thirty-five years of experience, Dave Hodges is the most talented, honest and hardworking technician I have ever known.” Tony also said, “With almost twenty years of service, Garfield Smith has worked his way up from part-time clerk to manager of our very busy c-store.”
Tony has diversified in business. He invested in commercial real estate, a strip mall and other ventures. Amplifying an old-time principle, Tony’s policy is to buy or invest in something every few years. Tony said, “Having the good fortune of being my father’s son, I was raised around the business and the work ethic and example Dad instilled in me carries me through every day and every decision I make.”
Years from now, when his children are telling their own personal stories, I believe that all of Tony’s children will say;
“I had the good fortune of being my father’s child.”
When it comes to creating a beautiful gas station/c-store, Frank J. DiDonato says, “From putting pencil to paper, to design and layout, to the completion of the job, you don’t have to go anywhere else.”
Frank and his team at S.I.S. design gas station/c-stores and then supply those stores with tanks, pumps, point of sale equipment, shelving, any equipment one might need. And they assist the store in achieving environmental compliance. With charm, humor, and classic good looks, for over fifty years he has served our region and Frank has a sterling reputation. Born in Baden and a graduate of Ambridge High School, Frank attended Geneva College, served in the Coast Guard, and is revered by his large extended family. Frank is an accomplished musician playing the guitar, cello and bass, and played in a Hillbilly Band.
S.I.S. does all the installation and service for Countywide Petroleum Company; they wouldn’t use anyone else. S.I.S. gets most of its business through referrals from satisfied customers. An employee with ten years of service, J.R. Bachor says, “I’m happy about our association with Countywide Petroleum Company. They are trustworthy and they have helped a lot of people in the business.” J.R. added, “S.I.S. always goes the extra mile. With exceptional pricing, we provide the latest products and technology and caring personal service. We want to create an environment where our customer’s stores can reach their full potential.”
The blue-collar man who smokes used to account for the majority of gas station/convenience store sales. Today, it is a very different matter. More and more, the survival of these stores is based on non-fuel offerings. The trend is to turn gas station/convenience stores into a destination. Paying for gas at the pump – means less impulse buys in the store.
Upscale innovative designs are being incorporated with unique colors, woodwork, art, coffee bars, fireplaces, free Wi-Fi access, and dining areas with big-screen TVs. The goal of this chic strategy is to make it a pleasurable shopping experience.
While offering requisite items, many stores are constantly retooling offerings. Price and value are still vital but the trend is to amplify the appeal of the establishment. Convenience stores built today are 25 percent larger than those built a decade ago. Many owners will tell you they make more off a 12oz cup of coffee than a 12-gallon fill-up. Innovations of this epicurean uprising include homemade baked goods, garden-fresh produce, gourmet coffee, espresso bars, brick-oven pizza, packages deli-style lunch boxes, fresh seafood, and seating areas with magazines nearby. Many stores want to be perceived as a healthy alternative to fast food. Some states allow beer caves, a wine selection or roll-your-own-cigarette machines. To make the customer feel entertained and satisfied is the experience most inventive stores are after.
Swanky food won’t thrive in every neighborhood. Years of dreadful coffee and wrinkly old hot dogs have made customers reluctant to take convenience store food seriously. Today, it is not enough to say “Great location, extended hours or pretty good price.” How to find new ways to entice time-strapped patrons inside the store is the question;and innovation is the answer.
Branded distributor for BP, Citgo, Clark, Exxon, Marathon, Sunoco and Valero.