LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – When it comes to gas prices in Louisville, one thing has been consistent. Whether gas prices are rising or falling, gas stations that are close in proximity are close in price as well, whether they want to or not. Their prices are posted up where everyone can see them. But something different is happening around town over the past two months.
On October 4 in Middletown, gas stations across the street from each other, Circle K and Shell, were selling gas for $3.51 and $3.86 a gallon, a difference of 35 cents a gallon. Around the corner on Shelbyville Road, neighboring gas stations Speedway and Marathon were 32 cents different at $3.47 and $3.79.
On October 6 on Breckenridge Lane at the Watterson Expressway, Thornton's and Speedway were at $3.42. Marathon was at $3.99. That's 57 cents per gallon difference, for days not hours. The same day in Middletown, prices ranged from $3.46 to $3.86, a 40 cents per gallon difference.
On October 8 in the south end, where gas is typically cheaper, Speedway was at $3.37. Right next door, we saw a Marathon station 32 cents a gallon higher, which is also 32 cents higher than another Marathon station less than a mile down the road.
"You're one of the first people to bring it to my attention," said Roger Boyd, AAA Kentucky spokesperson.
So why did we see 54 cents a gallon difference on November 17 between stations less than a mile apart?
"I have a lot more questions than answers obviously at this time," said Boyd. "It might be a business model. There could be some gas stations that are perfectly content to have a very slow 50 cents, than a very fast 10 nickels."
The major gas retailers in town don't do interviews about their gas pricing strategies, so I went in with a hidden camera to try to get the real stories. I asked a Marathon station manager why her gas price was 26 cents per gallon higher than the station across the street.
"That's what they charge us to bring the load in and we can't sell it below that cost," she said.
I asked the manager of the cheaper store across the street how they set their prices.
"Just off what everyone else is," he said. "We do a gas survey of what everyone else is and we just match it."
Independent gas station managers say they can't compete against the major chains right now.
"Even if they get gas for a higher price, they'll just lower the price because they can make profit in other stores," said a Marathon station manager. "This is just an independent store so we sell for no profit, like little less profit."
The man who sets the price for one retailer in town, who asked to remain a confidential source, said the major players are selling their gas right now at 20 to 30 cents per gallon below cost and the competition is so fierce no one wants to give up their share of the gas buying volume. He says the others can't do it, so they'd rather not sell it.
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