Out of Gas
Jeff Lenard, spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), provides some perspective.
"In 1997 there were 5,447 fueling outlets in Michigan. By 2009 that had gone to 4,828. What happened? It's just harder to make money selling gas."
Gas, Lenard says, is sold at a markup of about 15 cents per gallon--and if customers pay with plastic, 6 cents per gallon goes to the credit card company. Raising prices is not an option: "If you're a convenience store, you have to have pretty close to the cheapest gas, because we know that people will do extraordinary things to save three cents a gallon."
Like, for instance, drive all the way to Sam's Club. "Sam's Club doesn't have to make money selling gas to continue to sell gas," Lenard says. "You'll go there to get what you think is a good price on gas, and while you're there, you'll say, 'Hey, I drove ten miles out of my way. I might as well buy $100 worth of groceries.'"