New Yorkers scrambling for gas in the days after Sandy may have received some sticker shock when seeing the price at the pump, prompting some to request investigations into price gouging. But local owners explain that a change in price doesn’t necessarily mean the consumer is being taken advantage of.
“I didn’t see any gouging,’ said Eddie Piotrowski, owner of Eddie's Service Center in Kings Park.
“I heard about it and I read about it. I had some people say that I was gouging, but with the storm, there were other factors to take into account when pricing.”
Piotrowski said he sets his price based off what his distributor is charging him per gallon. Then he takes into account his overhead and a small profit before he sets his price. In the days after Sandy, Piotrowski said factors like availability and extra costs paid to tanker drivers who sat on long lines to fill up added to the cost reflected at the pump.
“The average consumer doesn’t see that and when they see the price jump, there’s a cost involved,” said Piotrowski
According to him, gas prices ranged from $4.25 to $4.49 and set his price at $4.29 in the week or so after Sandy.
On Thursday, State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, sent a letter to 13 stations, saying he planned to start "enforcement proceedings" against them for violating the state's price-gouging law. Of the 13, four were on Long Island, though none were in the Smithtown area.
John La Salle, owner of Kings Park Car Care Center said the rationing came too late, but is glad the worse is over.
“Everybody was fighting, everybody ran out of patience. We should have put it in when New Jersey did. It helped them right away.”
La Salle said he sets his price based off of what he is paying.
“We go off of a percentage to set the price, “ he said. "The prices were definitely higher after Sandy. I was putting super in my regular tanks just to stay open. I raised up accordingly. I raised my regular price.” LaSalle said he doesn't recall his highest price after Sandy. Gas on Friday afternoon was $3.85 at his station.
While gouging may have brought out the worst in some owners, it also brought out the best.
Customers we spoke with last week praised North Country Gas in St. James for their ability to stay largely open after the storm and for their willingness to help customers.
"This guy has given handshake credits," said Scott Siebert, about station owner Brian Barton. "They pushed cars that ran out of gas while waiting on line into the station. This guy is a benefactor to the community."