FOX 8 Defenders: Buyer beware of gas cash discounts - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

FOX 8 Defenders: Buyer beware of gas cash discounts

METAIRIE, LA (WVUE) -

The average price per gallon of regular unleaded gas in the New Orleans area is $1.70, according to the website www.gasbuddy.com.  One of the cheapest spots we found on that site was a Discount Zone in Kenner for $1.49 a gallon. 

"It's down to a $1.69," said Peggy Voss, referring to the Shell location at Clearview Parkway and West Metairie in Metairie. It caught her attention.  "I made a U-turn, came back and bought my gas, and as I had finished my transaction, I realized that it came up $2.09," she said.
      
The large print price on the corner said $1.69 a gallon, but Voss paid $2.09, a difference of $.40 more a gallon. At first, Voss thought it was a mistake.

"I went inside. Very nicely, I said, ‘excuse me, there's been a mistake on my gas purchase.’ And he (cashier) said, ‘did you pay by credit card?’  And I said yes, and he said well that is an additional fee for credit card use," explained Voss.

The larger print price on the corner sign advertises regular unleaded gas for $1.69 a gallon, but next to it are the words "cash only."  Below that amount. the smaller print price says $2.09 a gallon credit or debit card. 

"The reason there's a difference between the cash price and credit price is the cost of the credit cards," Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Mike Strain said.

The department regulates hundreds of products consumers and businesses purchase every day, including fuel. Strain told FOX 8 that cash discounts for gas are legal. 
  
"The rule says the lowest price may be posted or advertised by itself as long as any restrictions for receiving that price, for example, cash only, are also clearly posted or advertised in conjunction with the price," explained Strain. 

He said there's no law setting the maximum price unless that amount changes during a declared emergency, such as during a hurricane. Some stations across the country charge customers as much as $1 more per gallon just to swipe, according to a published article by Consumer Reports. 

"Who's gonna read the fine print after they've already seen the $1.69? And at night it's quite a difference," said Voss.

The general manager of the Shell location at Clearview and W. Metairie said he displays the cash discount more prominently to promote his best price.  Abe Doumani says there are several reasons driving his cash discounts. One reason, he said, is the fees for credit card transactions. Secondly, he mentioned that with swiping customers, he doesn't get the money right away, and as an individual owner, he says cash discounts allow him to compete with the bigger volume stores.         
           
"I think other people need to be aware that these things can happen, and we all need to be very conscious of our money for ourselves," said Voss.  While many people don't carry cash like they used to, the next time you fill up, remember cash may be king.
           
If you've got a consumer concern, call the FOX 8 Defenders staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women at 1-877-670-6397 or fill out an online complaint form. 

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