The Politically Incorrect Mom


Thursday, September 22, 2005

No Chillin' at The Hill!

This afternoon, just like clockwork these days when there is some impending doom ready to barrel into our country, the good ol' folks in my hometown lined up at the gas pumps to fill up before the prices sky rocket as a result of Rita. I, too, lined up to fill my car up - I needed it anyway and didn't want to be kicking myself tomorrow when I could have filled up tonight.

I started out at one of four Turkey Hill Mini Markets in town. For those of you who are not from the North East - Turkey Hill is a multi-million dollar corporation located about 90 miles west of Philadelphia. They started out as a dairy- providing milk and ice cream and have evolved into the most popular convenience store in these parts. Their ice cream is still the best you can get anywhere, but like any convenience store - you PAY for convenience. During the summer months, Turkey Hill's catch phrase is, "come chill at The Hill". But back to the subject at hand...

I realized shortly after arriving at the first store that the "87" (regular unleaded) and "89" (premium unleaded) pump handles were covered with plastic grocery bags on each and every pump station. I found this very odd, since this isn't the first time people have scrambled to the pumps because they're afraid of what tomorrow might bring. I have never, EVER seen a Turkey Hill out of gasoline.

Not wanting to pay for the "super" unleaded, I decided to get out of line and go down the street to the next store. I passed a couple of other gas stations on the way...a Hess station, a Shell station and a Mobile station. All three places are close enough to the road to see their pump stations and I took note that none of them appeared to be out of gasoline. When I entered the second Turkey Hill store lot, I found those pumps to be covered as well - all but the most expensive gas. At that point I began to suspect something was up.

My daughter gave a heavy sigh as I drove right through the lot and out the other side to check the next store. Sure enough - the same sign, no explanation - just covered pumps...all but the expensive gas. When I got to the fourth and final store I found that the pumps were NOT covered, so I got in line to wait for gas. I waited for 25 minutes and just as the SUV in front of me was finishing up, the "manager" came out with plastic bags to cover the two lower priced pump handles (evidently he hadn't been checking the store's e-mails often enough).

I want you to know, folks - you heard it here first.....TURKEY HILL IS BLATANTLY GAUGING THEIR CUSTOMERS!! This is the conversation I had with the manager:
(guy walks out as I am getting out of my car to pump my gas and attempts to begin to cover the lower grade gas pumps - since I had seen the other stores, I knew what he was doing)
Me: What's THAT about?
Fat guy with a lisp...oops, I mean "manager": Sorry, mam. I'm just doing what I'm told.
Me: And what was that?
Manager: We don't want to run out of gas.
Me: You mean you don't want to run out of gas before you have the chance to increase the price to $5 per gallon!
Manager: We might run low, mam. If you want to come back tomorrow to get this grade of gas, be my guest.
Me: So, you're suggesting I wait until you increase the price - no,'re withholding the lower grade gasoline until TOMORROW when it will be more expensive. Is that right?
Manager: I'm just doing what I'm told, mam.
Me: That's price gauging!
Manager: I'm just doing what I'm told, mam. We might run out of gas.
Me: So, you're telling me that ONLY the Turkey Hill stores in this town are running out of the lower grade gasoline? Every other smaller station in town with much smaller tanks is still selling it, but you guys are running out?
Manager: I'm just doing what I'm told, mam.
Me: I bet you sleep well at night.

So, evidently this didn't sit well with the schmuck because the guy walked over to the pump I was about to use and removed the bag from the lowest grade and said, "be my guest" and then covered it when I finished pumping (which proves that he was not out of gas or worrying that he would run out). I filled my tank and resisted the overwhelming urge to run him over with my car on my way out of the lot.

I've been to the Turkey Hill website and learned that their "sister" corporation runs the mini marts. Of course I sent a complaint - one that will probably not be addressed, but I won't feel better unless I NEVER do business with that company again. Just when I think that my little neck of the woods is immune to that kind of nonsense - I get knocked back to reality. UN-FRIGGIN-BELIEVABLE!

It probably didn't help matters that I absolutely HATE pumping my own gasoline and visit one of the two full-serve stations in town the majority of the time - but after going on a rampage to find out what was up with the T.H. gas - I ended up passing them by. So, I guess the lessons here are:
For me: Just let the "gas guy" pump your gasoline.
For the Manager: Don't piss that crazy woman off when she's doing something she hates.

UPDATE: I spoke with the manager of the T.H. closest to my home this morning. He manages the smallest one in town, with only two gas pumps, as opposed to the 8-10 that the other stores have. His "take" on the situation was that at approximately 4:30 PM yesterday afternoon, HE and ONLY HE ran out of the "87" grade gasoline. He contacted "corporate" and told them he needed his tanks filled a.s.a.p. He then lowered the price of his "89" grade to accommodate his customers - a move that nearly cost him his job. By 7:00 PM (I lined up at 7:25) "corporate" had told the rest of the stores in town to withhold the lower grade gasoline from their customers. Sounds like they saw the shortage at one store as a potential opportunity to gauge all those who might line up at the other stores. When I told him I "had words" with the manager at the "north" store - he responded, "Ohhhhhh, that was YOU!"

It's good to be notorious for something, I suppose...even if it is for being the crazy lady at the gas pump.

UPDATE: I received this response from the "sister" corporation that runs the Turkey Hill Stores:

Dear Ms. XXXXX:Thank you for contacting The Kroger Co. regarding gasoline available at the Turkey Hill Stores in your area. A Customer Service Representative has received your comments. We have forwarded your message to the appropriate department for review and follow up. Thanks again for writing.

UPDATE (Friday Afternoon): Turkey Hill called me and asked if they could send me a gift certificate for gasoline to be used at their store. According to their customer service guy - "It's terribly upsetting to know that you believe we are gauging our customers" - to which I responded, "well, are you?" The rep then lowered his voice and said, "to be honest, I haven't been able to get a straight answer on that all day".
HA! Unbelievable!
Yes, I took the gift certificate - I'm angry....not crazy. I told him if I live to be 100, I won't buy another gallon of gasoline at a T.H. - but I'm not so stupid that I wouldn't accept it for free.


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