The war is on!

Published 3:44 pm Sunday, August 24, 2014

AHOSKIE –It’s known in the trade as a “gas war.”

Price declines in gasoline at Ahoskie retail outlets dipped dramatically, declining by more than 30 cents per gallon over the past few days.  The dwindling values began at one particular retailer and then spread to several more stores around town until they seemed a consensus.

But no one’s complaining; not that it would’ve been a surprise.

If anything, whatever caused the dip in price, it’s definitely garnered praise from the average driving gasoline consumer.

“It dropped pretty quickly,” said Greg from Pittsburgh. “I don’t really know why, but I’ve heard people talk.  I don’t know if it dropped everywhere like this or if it’s just local; but if you get 40 or 50 miles out of town and gas prices drop a bit.”

Though they will not have a formal grand opening until Sept. 19, the newest Murphy’s USA national gas station and convenience store chain began servicing customers on Aug. 18 which was around the time prices began to drop.

Murphy USA operates about 1,000 outlets nationwide, usually located near Wal-Mart shopping centers.

And as most people are aware, gas wars usually end with prices recovering to nearly the same level as previous. As of 12 noon on Friday, regular unleaded in Ahoskie was at $3.08 per gallon. On Monday of this week the price was $3.39 a gallon. (NOTE: The price fell again later Friday to $3.05 per gallon.)

“It’s good to get a break,” one woman said who asked to remain anonymous. “I know the management of these stores has done a lot for this town and some common sense tells us what this is all about.  I support our local folks and my money’s tight too.”

A random sampling of consumer reaction indicates that the majority of people feel there’s a correlation between the new store opening and the price fluctuation, though there is no public record of such.

“I think competition’s healthy but I think probably (Jernigan) and TradeMart kind of stuck to their guns a little bit because not many people are going to wait several hours for everybody in the county to go to one station,” said John G. from Harrellsville. “I hate it that (they) feel they have to compete this way but I understand the nature of the business: if you don’t have the gas priced right, then they won’t go in the store to buy the drinks and the snacks and that’s really where they make their money.”

“None of these guys really make a whole lot off of fuel,” he added. “It’s more about stopping in getting their lunch and the snacks.  I get it; it’s a shame that it’s happened, but competition’s good for the consumer, so take advantage of it while it lasts ‘cause it’s not going to stay this way forever.”

One customer expressed the view that the total picture was more important that the gas prices.

“Gas isn’t really what we’ve got to be concerned about,” said Maurice M. of Powellsville. “We’ve got to look at character and focus on what’s happening to us every day.  Lives are at stake and we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff.”

James R. of Ahoskie said he shops for gasoline out of town sometimes because of his job location, but was glad to see lower prices closer to home.

“I’m used to going back and forth to Virginia to work and it looks now like its cheaper here than it is there,” he said. “It’s a shame that it took Wal-Mart to bring another station here for all the other companies to get lower prices.  But it’s not going to last long.  It really doesn’t matter because it’s going to go back up again anyway.  Look at the cost of living: you can’t keep gas down for long.”

A check of gas prices on Friday afternoon in other local towns revealed $3.29 per gallon in both Murfreesboro and Windsor; and $3.46 in Jackson. Regionally, gas was priced at $3.34 per gallon in Williamston on Friday and $3.36 in Greenville.