Why The Big Price Difference?

By: Chris Mossman
By: Chris Mossman

Why would the same chain sell gas in Washington for $2.66 per gallon yet set the price in their Greenville stores as high as $2.83 per gallon?

Why would the same chain sell gas in Washington for $2.66 per gallon yet the price in Greenville is as high as $2.83 per gallon?

I'm asking the question even though I know the answer.  It doesn't make the situation any less maddening though. 

We live in a free market economy so Duck Thru, Kangaroo, Sheetz, Hess-Wilco, Walmart, Handy Mart and all the other gasoline retailers have the ability to set their own prices.  God bless 'em and let's never take that ability away from them.  However, if they're willing to sell gas to people in Washington for $2.66 per gallon, is it ethical to charge Greenville residents an additional 17 cents per gallon for the exact same product? 

My sense is that it's up to you, the consumer, to decide.  If the stores that sell gas for $2.66 per gallon get significantly more business than those who charge $2.83, maybe they'll get the message and bring the price down.  Then again, maybe the price will come up in Washington. 

To answer my initial question, gas is currently cheaper in Washington because of free market competition.  When one station in an area lowers the price, usually all the stations in the area adjust their prices to become competitive with the price leader. 


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Boris on May 10, 2011 at 12:36 PM
    I won't drive 30 miles for cheap gas, but if I know I'm going through Washington, or Williamston or wherever the cheaper gas is, I'll be sure to fill up while I'm there!
  • by gassed Location: eastern nc on Nov 25, 2010 at 02:56 PM
    The Washington stores are seeling below cost. One local convenience store has gone out of business and leased the stores. A regional business can run local business out of business.
  • by P on May 24, 2010 at 11:23 AM
    Gas prices in Washington are looking better all the time, thanks to the new station that has opened.
  • by Nathan Location: Eastern NC on May 21, 2010 at 11:59 PM
    Also consider that by traveling to another town to buy gas, you actually pay more. They want that! Say your car gets 25 miles to the gallon -- about how far it is between Washington and Greenville along 264. So you're burning a tank of gas ($2.66) each way. Using Chris's sample prices, and supposing your car has a 15-gallon tank, say you spend the last gallon of your gas to get to Washington. Your car uses its last drop to get you to that pump. So you fill up for $39.90, and then you drive back to Greenville, so you have 14 gallons left. But if you would have just filled up in Greenville (remember, you still have that last gallon!), you would have spent $39.62, and you'd have a whole gallon more than if you'd driven to the next town. See what I'm saying? But they want you to burn that gas because, doesn't $2.66 sound a lot better than $2.83? (And I've seen it up to $2.89 in Greenville, without looking, so $2.83 is a low estimate.)
  • by J on May 20, 2010 at 10:12 AM
    Gas is normally higher by 10 to 15 cents in Washington than Williamston. Lower prices, in my opinion is because of the new gas station that's just opened in Washington. They will all go to the same price in a few days or weeks in Washington. When one station goes down or up the rest do in a day or two.
  • by vball Location: Greenville on May 19, 2010 at 10:22 AM
    This isn't just an issue between Washington and Greenville. We travel to Greensboro quite a bit and there has never been a time where the gas along the highways between Greenville and Greensboro isn't .10 - .12 cents cheaper. I think they just chose to rips us off in Greenville. It's hard to go elsewhere when you work/school schedules so we're somewhat forced to buy it in Greenville.

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