Jun 19 2009

Weeks later, this Citgo sign still doesn’t match the pump price

How can the owner of a national fran­chise over­look some­thing this obvious for so long?
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This photo you see here shows the eastbound side of a sign for the Citgo station directly across from Shaw AFB on Route 378 in Sumter, SC. Eastbound traffic has salivated for weeks about midgrade gas selling for $2.31 per gallon at a station that blatantly advertises “WE ARE OPEN” underneath their misleading price.

A photo of the westbound side of the sign advertises midgrade at $2.55 per gallon. The price on the westbound side jumps a few cents every few days. You can also see a video I took showing both sides of this sign.

The eastbound side of this Citgo sign has advertised midgrade for weeks at $2.31 per gallon — right now 24¢ less than what the pump demands

The east­bound side of this Citgo sign has adver­tised midgrade for weeks at $2.31 per gallon — right now 24¢ less than what the pump demands

When I first saw the price error a few weeks back, I thought “that’s a cute case of pro­cras­ti­na­tion. I should take a photo of it.” I saw it again and I thought “okay, we’re beyond pro­cras­ti­na­tion. Who only changes one side of a gas station sign?

A week later I wondered “how can the owner of this national franchise miss something this obvious for so long? I really need to take a picture of it so I can document it.” But, of course, I procrastinated.

I passed by this Citgo station on 9 June and I thought to myself, “I can’t believe they still show different prices. I need to document it.” But I was in a hurry to go on vacation. I returned on the night of 17 June and, sure enough, the sign remained screwed up. I thought “man, I wish the sun was out so I could take photos.”

The gas station’s security camera will confirm I finally documented it on 19 June at roughly 6:45pm.

“Rob, why don’t you just ask the kid behind the counter for the lowest advertised price?” Because the kid behind the counter can’t change the computerized price at the pump. If he could, his friends would beg him for discounted gas. (Believe me, I know. I learned to drive during the 1970s oil crisis when kids behind the counter could give discounts to their friends without the boss knowing it.)

And human nature being the way it is, a lowly part-time employee will often go out of his way to protect his employer’s interests even at the expense of his own interests. If you even so much as ask him in a curious fashion “what’s up with the sign?,” his brain will go into defensive mode. He’ll end up justifying the sign’s error to reduce his own level of cognitive dissonance