'Mom & Pop' gas stations getting squeezed out

by Jeff Ferrell

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Outrage at the gas pump is not limited to customers.  Some gas station owners feel the very same way you do.  And many 'mom & pop operations' are going out of business because of ever-shrinking profit margins.

When people drive by and see the latest price on a gas station sign they may not realize that the folks who own the station typically aren't the ones getting rich at our expense.  That's because people will drive farther for cheaper gas, even for just a few cents in savings.  That means that the margin of profit keeps shrinking as stations try to keep customers with low prices, while having to pay more for the gas.

A Murphy USA gas station outside a Shreveport Wal-Mart store can sell gas for $3.74 a gallon, while just down the road at the corner of West 70th Street and West Bert Kouns, an independently-owned and operated gas station must sell it 10-cents higher.

"I'm not sure whether I'm gonna be able to stay around much longer, really," confided station owner Mark Jones.  He exlained that the nearby Murphy USA gas station can afford to lose money on gas because it's designed to attract customers, who'll then go shopping at the Wal-Mart store next door, where the "real" money is made.

Credit card fees, which average 9-cents more per gallon, are also cutting into a station's profits.  But Jones isn't going down without a fight.  "I can't do much about the price.  But I'm going to try to give better service, see if that'll help my volume."

In honor of a former employee, nicknamed 'Mr. Shorty,' Jones personally started pumping the gas for seniors and ladies Monday through Wednesday afternoons.  Regulars like the idea, like Wendy Holmes of Shreveport who added, "I think that's awesome.  I think that's good.  I would pump myself but you know for other people that's a nice gesture."

But analysts predict all the marketing techniques in the world won't be able to save all of these individually-owned and operated 'mom & pop' gas stations, because as the profit margins continue to shrink, or in some cases completely evaporate, more and more of them will go out of business.