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Gas is cheap, but gas wars rage on

The Fastop gas station in Pasadena, Calif. offers gas cheaper than many stations in Los Angeles County. Rivals Garo Gas offer strong competition across the street.

TEXT OF STORY

Scott Jagow: The price of oil is at a three and a half year low this morning: $48 a barrel. That should send gas even further below $2 a gallon on average.
In California, gas is a bit more than $2, but not at two gas stations in Pasadena. Cash Peters has more.


Cash Peters: You've probably never heard of Garo Gas. But in Pasadena, California, the owners of this tiny little independent gas station are like folk heroes, selling gas way cheaper than the big boys. The owner, Homiparta Mellidonia, is all over TV.

Homiparta Mellidonia: We gave a good price for everybody, and it became news.

It did. But that's not all. Garo Gas has a rival: Fastop, they're called. They're right next door. In fact, last week, when Fastop put gas on sale at $1.69, the Garo guys thought, "Nuts to that" and immediately undercut them by a penny.

Well, customers were all over the place like termites. Lines down the street. People shouting. It was chaos. Joe Wilson's a regular:

Joe Wilson: These two stations have gas wars periodically -- I don't know who starts it or what. But normally, that guy's cheaper and these people are expensive.

Peters: Why do you come here?

Male customer: The cheapest gas I done seen, brother. One cents makes a difference.

Older woman customer: Part of it is the game of it, to try to find the best price. So it's kind of fun.

Older man customer: They're coming in this way, they're coming every which way, you know.

Male customer: It's crazy. Yeah, it is.

Peters: Have you ever had to go in there and sort out a fight?

Mellidonia: No not really, no. People eventually get alone.

Yeah, well, not everyone. I found one guy filling up at Fastop who had some kind of grudge against Garo and refused to go there. To heck with their fancy low price.

Grudge guy: The one next door?

Peters: Yeah, it's $1.68 next door. You could have saved a penny.

Grudge Guy: Huh? I don't care about the penny. I don't like that guy.

Peters: Oh, so it's like a personal thing?

Grudge Guy: Yes.

Wow. It's like the Old West. Every day's a showdown. In fact, I told Fastop that, breaking news, Garo Gas had lowered its price by another penny. That didn't go down well.

Fastop clerk: Well, we just had it at $1.69. They must have dropped their prices.

Peters: So why don't you lower your's now by two cents and you'll get all his customers?

Fastop clerk: If we go any lower, we're gonna lose out.

And Lord knows we wouldn't want a gas station to lose out, right?

Peters: So summarize this then: People are cheap, right?

Mellidonia Uhhh, haaa!

Peters: It's OK to insult your customers, don't worry.

Mellidonia: No it is true, that's obvious.

Old man: I'm cheap too -- but not that cheap, I'm not crazy.

Well, that's open to debate, frankly.

In Pasadena, California, I'm Cash Peters for Marketplace.

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