'Tanks-A-Lot' and other ploys to ease pump woes
As the summer driving season gets under way on Memorial Day weekend, hotels, retailers, and even churches are running promotions to help consumers with high gasoline prices.
There is an upside to $4-a-gallon gasoline.Skip to next paragraph
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Yes, you heard that correctly.
As the summer driving season gets under way on Memorial Day weekend, hotels, retailers, and even churches are offering prepaid gas cards and mileage discounts. At least one auto company, Chrysler, is offering to lock in the gasoline price over the next three years at $2.99 a gallon for car buyers. And financial entrepreneurs are dreaming up complex schemes to help consumers limit their "pump shock."
Indeed, a Rand McNally survey taken at the end of April found that 2 in 3 adults who plan to take a road trip this summer say that rising gasoline prices have changed their travel plans. Many now plan either a shorter amount of time or distance. Ten percent plan to cancel their trip altogether.
"This is the third year of the survey, and in the past, even when gas hit $3 per gallon, there was no significant effect on travel plans," says Laurie Borman, editorial director of Rand McNally, which is based in Chicago. "But this time, gasoline is a lot higher. Probably we have reached that psychological tipping point where you say, 'Oops, this is too high.' "
On Wednesday, gasoline hit another record price for the national average: $3.83 a gallon, according to GasPriceWatch.com, a Dayton, Ohio, firm that tracks prices. In California, the state average hit $3.95 a gallon on Monday, according to the Energy Information Administration. And at many gasoline stations across the United States, the price is already above $4 a gallon.
At the same time, crude-oil prices on the futures market went over $132 on Wednesday morning, another record.
Earlier this month, as gasoline prices rose, many hotels and lodges started seeing a downturn in bookings. That was the case at the Marina Inn at Grande Dunes in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The 220-room resort saw a week of falling numbers in advance bookings. "Even though it wasn't a trend, we decided to be proactive," says Pamela Shelley, director of sales and marketing.
In the Marina Inn's case, that means offering a 10-cent-a-mile rebate, through Labor Day, to any guest staying at least three nights. The credit is deducted from the final room bill, based on a MapQuest mileage calculation from the guest's originating address.
"Based on a three- to six-hour drive, the average rebate could be about $60, which is enough for an SUV to get here and back," says Ms. Shelley.