Thursday, March 15, 2012

Gas Price Signs May Mislead Drivers

Gas-price signs will sometimes include promotions that drivers won't notice. Often, drivers don't notice because they've been conditioned to look at gas signs in a particular way. For the last two decades, gas price signs looked the same. They list the prices, top to bottom, of Unleaded, Super-unleaded, Super-Duper-Uber-Premium-Plus-Unleaded.

From time to time, we'll see filling stations post the price of gas with large, easily visible numbers, and near those large numbers is a tiny collection of text that says something like "with car wash" or "cash only."  Driver's often don't have time to carefully examine gas-price signs for tricks and catches before they take an exit.  Sometimes, the text is simply too small to read from the road. If the price of gas without the cash discount is not on display near the conditional price, the BBB would certainly challenge the transparency of such an advertising tactic. Now gas stations run promotions for gas prices contingent on the purchase of other products.

Hy Vee gas stations offers a discount to those who shop at Hy Vee. Many Phillips 66 and Conoco stations advertise the price of gas with a car wash. We've already established that advertising the conditional price without the regular price is ethically problematic, but what if they do advertise the regular price, just as big? What would that look like? Like this:

 In other words, it looks an awful lot like a regular gas sign, especially when traveling at sixty miles an hour. blogged about the problem because their contributors were sometimes confused by the prices. is a site that relies on regular people to post the price of gas around their area. The site then price of gas at individual gas stations across the country. Apparently, some of the contributors were submitting the gas price that was contingent on the purchase of a car wash and it angered some people who found out the price of gas was higher than reported.

If the price of both the discounted gas and the full-price gas are not prominently displayed, people should file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau for deceptive advertising. But he only way to avoid getting confused about the price is for drivers to recondition themselves to read qualifications very quickly. From now on, everyone should take a glance at the lettering near the price. If there are a few extra words that are too difficult to read, move on to the next gas station. 

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