Crime: Hate High Gas Prices? So Do Gas Station Owners

Even before there was the puncturing of some Poulsbo area fuel tanks and the theft of 80 gallons from a Bremerton construction site, gas stations have been dealing with “drive-offs,” which increase as prices go up.

Economically (but unfortunately), that makes sense — the more something is worth, the more thieves will try to steal it. (Oil, which hit record $120 per barrel highs earlier this week, is hovering around $115 as I write this.)

But here are three reasons that high prices make a bad situation worse for gas station owners, whose typically razor-thin margins are whithered further by those who go without paying. Here they are, according to

*Retailers are being hit hard by the higher gasoline prices. During periods of price increases, retailers’ wholesale costs rise faster than they can recover them at the pump so profit margins are down significantly. NACS reports that gasoline margins in 2007 were 5.2 percent, the lowest level since 1983, and much of the reason for declining fuel margins is price volatility for gasoline.

*Because theft is typically linked to elevated prices, gasoline theft usually hits retailers when the value of that stolen property is at an all-time high.

*In addition to reduced profit margins on gasoline, more customers pay for their gasoline by credit card (approximately 60 to 70 percent of gasoline customers in 2007). The processing fees for credit cards (as much as 3 percent) further shrink already reduced margins to the point where retailers often make less per gallon than the credit card company.

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