Fuel Point Cards. Gotta Love ’em….so it seems that everyone has united in an unspoken war against not just shrinking budgets, but on the great oil companies that bilk us at the pumps every week. I can still remember driving across town to save ten or twenty cents a gallon on a tankful of gas and even feel “righteous” doing it. One afternoon I really got to thinking about it not so much in dollars and cents saved but time, rubber, and oil that I was “investing” to save my precious ten cents a gallon. Not much came out of those mental gymnastics but it did get me started thinking a little harder about those secret swindlers of my hard earned dollars. Then one afternoon while I was trying to maximize my savings, I learned (the hard way) that there is a secret little catch to those discounts. You can only claim your discount on up to 25 gallons at one time……
From a certain point of view, I get it. This prevents people from abusing the system from saving up their fuel points and then lining up all their relatives to “maximize” sixteen tankfuls of gas. To keep people from “cheating”….fair enough….but then I found another catch. You can only save “up to” a dollar a gallon. Sounds great….but then here is where the math comes in….and where I really got to thinking about it.
Okay….I can save up to a dollar a gallon. I also generate fuel points on money that (technically) I would have spent anyway on– allegedly– low, great food prices. Each point costs me a dollar and each 100 points ($100) saves me ten cents a gallon. Since I can collect my points over the course of a month, and sometimes points roll over to the next month, I’ll take it. Then it occurred to me– what would I have to spend to reach the holy grail of savings– a whole dollar a gallon? $1,000.
It still hasn’t happened yet but let’s assume for a moment that I had a thousand dollars to spend on local gas in a month. Going out of state on a road trip would really help, but most grocery store chains don’t cross state lines and even then, those that do usually don’t go to the state that you and I might be going to. Nice try there.
You guessed it. That twenty five gallon maximum comes into play. So for my 1,000 pahzoozahs, I’ve saved a paltry 25 bucks….whoohoooooo! And here is another way to look at it….for the sake of round numbers….let’s assume that a gallon of gas is only a measly two dollars in your area. How much does each ten cents a gallon save you? Remember now….you DID spend a hundred dollars to get that ten cents….. Five percent. Three dollars a gallon? About three percent. Four dollars a gallon? About two or two-and-a-half percent. Whoohoooooo!
One could argue that it’s better to save ten cents a gallon “across the street” at the local grocery store than the say two or three cents a gallon at the local chain fuel stop that’s on this side of the street. You would have spent that hundred or a thousand dollars anyway and it’s not like you wasted a half a gallon of gas to get there, right? Let me ask you this….why do grocery stores sell non-food items like school supplies, bug spray, pharmaceuticals, magazines, hand tools, and shampoo?
It’s not exactly a secret that the grocery business is so cutthroat that there is only a two or three percent profit margin on food items. No business in the world can stay afloat on that. Those non-food items? Typically there is at least a thirty percent markup or more. So in effect, it’s worth their while to flaunt fifty or even a hundred points– ten cents a gallon they hint at– for buying say your medicine at the grocery store. Really? Did you ever price those other non-food items? It may even be a dollar or two here, a dollar or two there– for the convenience of not having to drive across town which is a waste of your time, gas, rubber and oil. That all adds up. So let’s see here….you’ve spent an extra dollar on bug spray to get the fuel points because you would have spent the other eight dollars at the local hardware store anyway. That one dollar bought ONE extra fuel point. If you do the math, how much does each fuel point really save you at the pump? One TENTH of one cent (per gallon). If you had enough cash that week to fill a twenty-five gallon truck tank? In the end, you spent an “extra extra” dollar on that bug spray BUT you SAVED two-and-a-half cents!
And the crowd roars with applause! <satire>
Not even Microsoft has a marketing team that good. Do the math….think for yourself….I’m Peter Shogren.