Self-imposed fuel ‘tax’
This is a guide on how NOT to use a petrol station.
A lot’s been said in recent weeks about petrol prices, and how hard fuel taxes are going to hit families’ wallets.
People hate to buy petrol, pouring their hard-earned money into the tank to burn. It must be New Zealand’s number one grudge purchase.
But many of us are magnifying the toll petrol takes on our finances through our own dumb use of petrol stations.
The 2017 Monitor of Fuel Consumer Attitudes from the Australian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association tells a story that’s clearly replicated in New Zealand.
It found one in five people who bought fuel usually bought a snack, drink, or other product from the petrol station convenience store at the same time.
Convenience is one of those code words in retail.
When you see it, you know you are going to be asked to pay too much for something you can get cheaper elsewhere.
Often convenience is also ❚ ❚ ❚
associated with products that are bad for you like sugar-laden soft drinks, pies and muffins, chocolate and lollies, and coffee.
All this adds up to some people effectively increasing the cost of refuelling their cars.
Younger people (who have yet to face up to the reality of the lifetime cost of frittered money) are more likely to give themselves permission to make these purchases.
Older people (who have to make what money they have last) are less likely to make any purchases at petrol forecourt convenience stores.
The young are using petrol stations badly. The old are using them sensibly.
When it last surveyed Australians, the association concluded 70 per cent of people had only ‘‘medium’’ or ‘‘low’’ sensitivity to petrol prices, the association found.
And, it said: ‘‘Few motorists would travel out of their way for a cheaper fuel price.’’
Those who would were largely older people, and poorer people.
I understand people not investing their time in driving to get lower prices.
Time is precious. Lives are busy. Traffic in Auckland is terrible.
I cycle to work (roughly 7km) and drive (my wife’s car) only one day a week to take my kids to dancing and swimming.
That makes me one of the fortunate few in a city where the car dominates.
The financial incentive is pretty low too drive too far out of my way to save 8 cents a litre.
That was roughly the difference between the average prices charged over a 24-hour period on Monday for 91 petrol by the most expensive, and the cheapest, of the rival petrol station chains.
There’s widespread suspicion that competition in the petrol market is extremely weak.
As long as petrol retailers keep their prices in a narrowish band, the incentive to shop around is weak.
Weak competition usually means unsually high prices.
It’s one more reason to live near your work, make more journeys by bike, and to never, never, succumb to the petrol stations’ lure of convenience food and drinks.
There goes another $80 to be burnt.