Ever Noticed the Price of Gas in Waupaca?

UPDATE (2-13-17):  Every single gas station in town raised the price of regular gas exactly 9-cents to $2.29 – on the exact same day.

UPDATE (1-31-17):  Every single gas station in town dropped the price of regular gas exactly 5-cents to $2.20 – on the exact same day.

At a very early age, I was taught to keep track of gas prices around town. I might even be old enough to remember the “gas wars”. So, keeping track of which gas station consistently had the lowest price has been a lifelong pursuit.

But, for a long time, there has been no reason to seek the lowest price for gas in Waupaca – because the price of (regular) gas is always the same price – ALWAYS: Currently:

KwikTrip QQ & Fulton $2.25
KwikTrip Downtown $2.25
Citgo $2.25
BP on Fulton $2.25
Mobil Truck Stop $2.25
Holiday $2.25
Cenex $2.25
Fleet Farm $2.25

And you might say: Well, gas prices stabilize over time – so, eventually, you can expect the local stations to end up at the same price. And, the wholesale price of gas is going to be similar in northeast Wisconsin.

However, here’s what is extraordinarily strange in Waupaca: Every time the price of gas increases – every station increases its price by the exact same amount on the exact same day. Every time the price of gas decreases – every station decreases by the exact same amount on the exact same day. No matter the size of the increase or decrease – it is exactly the same.

For example, just recently, after weeks and weeks of gas priced at $2.35, the price dropped to $2.32 – at every single station on the exact same day. Then, it dropped again to $2.25 – at every single station on the exact same day.

It’s well known (or, I hope you know) that most gas stations make very little profit on a gallon of gasoline. Most or all stations make their profits from their convenience stores and other amenities. The stations in Waupaca are very different, when it comes to their stores. KwikTrip has two very new stores – large, glitzy, clean, inviting convenience stores; and one of them caters to diesel truck drivers. The Mobil station not only has a large “truck stop” convenience store, but it also has a well-advertised restaurant, truck rental operation, and repair services. BP and Citgo are located amongst Waupaca’s starvation row – surrounded by fast food joints. Holiday is downtown making it convenient for people running errands or kids to and from school. Fleet Farm is a big draw, so their customers can fill up after shopping.

My point is, each of these stations has its own “attractions” and its own business model.  If the other side of their business (store/restaurant/etc) is highly successful, then they should be able to charge a little less for gas – which should attract even more customers, who want to save a few cents per gallon. And each station has different “overhead” costs – based on how many employees each has, property taxes based on size of the station, etc. It always amazed me that the (now closed) “un-manned” gas station – with no store and no employee costs – would charge the exact same price as the station across the street that had a large convenience store and car wash.

Go to Appleton or Stevens Point – do you find the same “one price everywhere” phenomenon? No.

I have picked up on a second phenomenon: When the price of gas increases in Appleton or Stevens Point, the price of gas increases right away in Waupaca. But, when the price of gas drops in Appleton or Stevens Point – let’s say by 5cents – the price of gas in Waupaca also drops by about 5cents, but only after 3-5 (or more) days have gone by. Why the delay? And, why is the delay exactly the same at every station in Waupaca?

It is as though all 8 gas stations are operated by a single company, but we know that 7 of them are operated by a separate parent company.

It’s a mystery, but it’s a mystery you can probably figure out on your own. I don’t need to solve it for you.