Thursday, February 09, 2006

Special Automotive Edition

Not Your Huckleberry Friend

Probably unbeknownst to most of you, when we bloggers sign-up for our free software, we must agree to act as consumer crusaders and use our miniscule influence to alert the public to acts of commercial malfeasance. So it is with a great sense of duty that I blow the whistle on Huck’s Convenience Stores. Those accused gas gougers are at it again, this time perpetrating a scheme that is as sickening as a 64oz. Slurpee.

At their store earlier today, I had just finished swiping my debit card at the pump, denied their presumptuous invitation to have my car washed, and was about to select a blend, when - everything that I had ever learned about gas transactions was turned topsy-turvy.

At Huck’s, as at most gas stations, three grades of non-diesel fuel are offered. Two of them are usually designer or premium blends, while the third can best be characterized as generic. Huck’s has branded their offerings: The "Hot One" (Premium), "Sure Fire" (Super), and "Regular." The first two are displayed amidst red and yellow flames, while the third is generic white. The fiery imagery must play well with their target market, but I find it a tad disconcerting when handling combustible liquids.

It is customary and right that the designer brands occupy the first two positions on the pump, and the generic is on the furthest most right. It is also customary, and equally right, that the generic brand be the cheapest and the one that’s price is featured on their signs.

So traditional is this model that the many of us, more concerned with saving money than the supposed benefits of octane, automatically reach to the right when pump-side. If we do bother to check more closely, it is usually just to look for the handle that is simply labeled: “Regular,” with no resplendent qualifiers or infernal references. You could once feel comfortable that proceeding in such a trusting manner would get you the most fuel for your petrol dollar. But not anymore.

Those hucksters at Huck’s are playing a shell game with their gas, in hopes of deceiving customers into purchasing a more expensive blend. They are hiding the cheapest blend in the center spot and giving it a fancy-schmancy name (Super Fire) to throw-off the thrifty. Meanwhile, their humble-looking unleaded brand is a full dime more expensive.

What explanation could there possibly be for charging less for their "Super" blend than for the "Regular" other than out and out chicanery? I aim to find out.

I will email their corporate headquarters and relay my suspicions that they are up to no good. To ensure that they don't take my inquiry lightly, I will write it in such a way so as to appear slightly unhinged and therefore potentially dangerous – sort of like how I write my blog posts. With any luck, a Lazlo Toth*-like correspondence will develop, which I will share with you the reader.

Fools of the Road

In Paul Povse's column today, he hits on a growing trend among bad drivers, and does so quite eloquently.

It goes like this.

You'll be cruising down a thoroughfare when you notice up ahead, a car approaching from a side street. The car doesn't appear to be slowing down as it approaches the stop sign. You prepare to swerve out of the way. As you get nearer, the car does slow but continues to creep out as it prepares to turn on to the main road. It's almost as if they can't wait to start tailgating you so they try to time their turn so that the front of their bumper touches the rear of yours as you pass. To come to a complete stop, apparently, would cost them a few seconds that they just can't afford to waste.

Patience is a virtue, and it's threatening to become a vestige as well.

*Lazlo Toth was a character created by Don Novello (aka Fr. Guido Saducci.) He authored a book, "The Lazlo Letters," that contained comically bizarre letters that he had sent to various businesses, organizations, politicians, and others. Each letter was followed by the straight-forward responses he received. Often his queries would develop into lengthy a correspondence until the person on the other end caught on to the joke, or finally just dismissed Mr.Toth as a complete loony whose good will they no longer wished to maintain. It's a very funny book. I suppose that Lazlo sort of set the stage for the correspondents on the Daily Show, before people had come to recognize them and would take their satirical questions seriously.


The Abstract Prosaic said...

Dan said: To come to a complete stop, apparently, would cost them a few seconds that they just can't afford to waste.

Damn straight, Dan. Life is short. The less I'm on the road, the more time I get with my family.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...


I admire your devotion to your family. It would be a shame if in your haste to get home, your life is cut even shorter.


Anonymous said...

I'm surprised one of the gasolines isn't marketed as "Xtreme!"

Or better yet, a choice between "Extreme!" and "Xtreme!"

My suggestion is just don't shop there.

The Abstract Prosaic said...

Dan, it's a calculated risk. I freely admit I'm one of those "jerks" who constantly change lanes to get past slower drivers. If that allows me to beat even one red light, that's 90 seconds I don't have to waste sitting at a red light.

Remember a post you did a few months back about the supposed "epidemic" of red-light running? You got a comment that went along the lines of: "Red means stop. Green means go. Yellow means go faster."

That was me. You also might remember me from such driver's ed films as "Alice's Adventures through
the Windshield Glass" and "The Decapitation of Larry Leadfoot."

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

Anon - Xtreme gas would be TOTALLY OUTRAGEOUS. At least it will be if it's anything like the Xtreme green ketchup that Burger King was promoting with their kids' meals.

Jeff - I don't have a problem with your taking calculated risks while driving, as long as my family's safety doesn't figure into your equation.

I have to say, in all fairness, that "Larry Leadfoot" is a classic, although I found "Alice" a bit too derivative of the seminal driver safety snuff film: "Wheels of Tragedy." Still, the critics were right-on when they dubbed you the James Dean of the Highway Saftey Foundation studio. Wait a minute, didn't James Dean die in a .... well, nevermind.