Mel Rabadi, the public face of a North Adams gas station, is known for his sense of humor. To put on a smile.
It is more and more difficult.
With average gasoline prices in Massachusetts hovering around $4.73 a gallon for regular use, frustrations are mounting among customers and gas station employees alike.
Drivers are feeling the pain and reducing fuel consumption, station owners say. This becomes a problem for stations, whose profit margins depend on drivers entering for the most profitable items, such as coffee, sodas and snacks. A local station owner said sales were down more than 20% from a year ago.
“They know none of this is our fault, but they still complain about the high prices,” said a Berkshire county retailer.
Gas station and convenience store staff love Rabadi and have to be very patient with disgruntled customers.
“It’s really tough,” said Rabadi, who runs the Z Mart Sunoco station and convenience store on Ashland Street. “I am the face of the community, so all complaints come to me. And we need to absorb some of the price increases so we can keep prices as low as possible to stay competitive. »
John Carpinello, owner of a full-service Sunoco station in Williamstown, said he doesn’t set gas prices, fuel distributors do. That leaves station owners like him in the middle, between supplier and customer, with little choice but to weather the storm.
“When prices get so high, people drive less. And when they drive less, they don’t need to fix the car as much, so it hurts us,” he said.
Like other gas sellers, its contract with the gas distributor requires prices to be set by the distributor. Station owners have reason to want to keep prices as low as possible, however, as the local market becomes much more competitive when prices climb that high.
Louis Trinidad, a gas station attendant at Carpinello, says no one got mad at him about the prices. But they complain about it, sometimes jokingly.
“Everyone is frustrated, but they know it’s not my fault,” he said.
Pierre Kareh, co-owner and manager of the Mobil station and convenience store on Howland Avenue in Adams, said credit card companies charge a percentage of sales at the store, a cost that is factored into the price of gas.
If people stopped using plastic to pay for gas, that would help slightly keep prices low, he said.
Kareh said rapid price increases make matters worse, increasing the shock factor.
“It’s killing us, it’s killing the market and it’s killing the truckers,” he said. “It also hurts the cost of delivering gasoline to stations. But we have to keep prices as low as possible to keep people coming to the store. »
He said there have been a few complaints, but most people understand he can’t do anything to ease the growing burden of high gas prices.
Ankit Patel, owner of several gas stations and convenience stores in the area, including a Shell station in Great Barrington, said high prices have hurt business as fewer people stop to refuel. He said sales in May were down 20-40% from May 2021.
“A lot of people are hurting right now, and they’re not driving as much,” Patel said. “It hurts business. And they get frustrated when prices keep going up, so they complain.
He said political opinions come into play. “Some blame the government, some blame [Ukraine] war,” Patel said. But despite the policy and complaints, “all we can do is have the company set prices as low as possible and hope for some relief.”
For the handful of old-fashioned gas stations in Berkshire County that don’t have a convenience store, but fix cars and sell gasoline, the formula is slightly different. This affected businesses like Carpinello Station in Williamstown.
Watch the prices
Rabadi, the station manager at North Adams, says if his prices are higher than the station opposite, he will have fewer petrol customers. And worse, if no one buys gas there, then no one comes in for the higher profit margin items that keep it in business.
Anyway, it has nothing to do with fixing the price of gasoline. “I’m just the manager here,” Rabadi said. “I don’t set gas prices. Someone else in the business tells me what the prices will be.
He said he could not explain the dynamics of such high prices, but speculates that in the oil sector there is a significant “greed factor”.
At current prices, owners of pickup trucks and some SUVs have to shell out around $80 or more to fill up.
“If you take out the greed factor, gas prices would be 25 to 35 cents per gallon cheaper,” Rabadi said. “The oil companies are making record profits right now. Where does all this come from?”
He also noted that during the pandemic shutdown, when most people weren’t using their cars, gas prices were around $2.19 a gallon.
Lisa Walters of North Adams stopped by the Z Mart last week to fill up a few cans of gas to power her tractor at home. She also works at RJ’s Taxi.
“I work for a taxi company and that [high gas prices] kills us,” she said.