Jun 20 2009

Citgo part 2: I talk to the girl behind the counter

...and she may very well be one of the owners
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I decided to follow up my photos & video of the Citgo station that advertises gas for less than they charge at the pump. This time I wired myself for sound and played dumb with the girl behind the counter.

I went with the scientific method — first I developed a hypothesis, then I conducted an experiment to prove msyelf wrong. “We’re going to try to get midgrade gas at $2.31 a gallon,” I note in my audio. “The price last night was like $2.55 a gallon” on the other side of the side. “We’re going to try to get a 24¢ discount.”

Listen to my con­ver­sa­tion with the on-duty employee (owner?) of the Citgo store outside Shaw AFB, SC

“My hypothesis is that the kid behind the counter, male or female, is going to justify the error on the eastbound side of the sign,” I explained. “So we’re going to try to prove this hypothesis wrong… Our experiment is simple: walk in, pretend that we’re talking on the cell phone, stop talking on the cell phone, and then say ‘hey, how do I sign up for the $2.31 price? Do I need to get a Citgo credit card or something?’ And we will see how the kid reacts.”

“It’s pretty much going to be ad-libbed from that point forward,” I added. “But my key is not to produce a confrontation. My experiment will be to try to get the kid to explain why the price is $2.31 on the other side [of the sign]. And the hypothesis is that he will justify it, rationalize it — he’ll exhibit a cognitive dissonance and will seek to dispel this cognitive dissonance.”

“Again,” I reiterated, “I want to stress my job here during the experiment is not to antagonize the person behind the counter. Okay? If an antagonistic event begins, my job as the experimenter is to terminate the experiment. He will [sell me no gas] at $2.31 a gallon if the antagonism occurs; I’m not going to ‘demand’ anything out of him.”

Yes yes yes. I know I can legally demand a product at the lowest advertised price when a store leaves an outdoor sign in error for weeks. That wasn’t my objective here. I just wanted to hear the employee’s cognitive dissonance.

I wore what’s known as an open (not hidden) wire. “They’re going to see wires dangling from my ear and they’re going to misinterpret it as a wired headset for my cellphone,” I state in the audio. I held the digital recorder in my hand with my cell phone; I clipped the microphone to my wired cellphone headset.

The scenario begins at the 05:20 mark. I walk in the door at 06:35. The scenario ends at 08:50. The station’s security camera will confirm this scenario played out at approximately 2:50pm today.

“We proved the hypothesis wrong,” I declared after the experiment. “There was no cogintive dissonance with the lady there” behind the counter. She merely dismissed the sign as “wrong” and blamed it “my worker.”


I suspect the woman behind the counter is one of the owners.

I walked into the store to find two women behind the counter. A diminutive woman of Indian or Pakistani descent stood at the register and spoke with a rather thick accent while a taller black woman with a small child stood off to the side. The Indian woman did most of the talking. The black woman remained behind the counter with her child while the Indian woman went outside to study the eastbound side of the Citgo sign.

(“So, Rob. You think she’s the owner because she’s Indian, right?” Nope. I don’t obsessively watch too many Simpsons episodes like the rest of y’all and I never laugh at stereotypes like Apu and Jeff. Well, okay: I only laugh at Jeff, never at Apu. I’m a very politically correct kind of person, you know. Just ask anyone in my gansta-rap posse.)

I suspect she’s one of the owners because — while walking away from the sign at the 08:15 mark — she blamed its error on “my worker.” She did not blame “my supervisor” or “my boss” or “my manager” or “the owner”…

The sign remained in error at 6:45pm this evening when I drove by. Stay tuned.

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