Archive for Thursday, September 13, 2001

Meiners’ offers refunds for Tuesday’s gas hike

September 13, 2001

The chaos and confusion of the nation's worst terrorist attack came home to the streets of De Soto Tuesday afternoon as residents sought to fill gas tanks amid fears the day's horrible events would lead to a gas shortage.

Vehicles lined up at both Meiners' Market and J-Mart as the afternoon wore on. During the height of the rush, Johnson County Sheriff's officers were needed to direct traffic at the two stations.

Teena Andersen said she filled up one of her vehicles after getting off work at Lexington Middle School. She returned with a second car about 5 p.m. and received a surprise. Prices at the pump had jumped from $1.69 a gallon an hour earlier to $5.63 a gallon.

Meiners' manager Adrian Velazquez said the store raised prices for about an hour Tuesday. The decision, he said, was "regrettable." Wednesday, the store started refunding customers with receipts for gas purchased at the higher price.

"We apologize," he said. "I feel terrible. I definitely think we let the community of De Soto down."

Velazquez said the decision to raise prices was his. A variety of factors contributed to the decision, but he said fears that the store would run out of gas and that transports would not be able to resupply the store soon was his main concern. The store did run out of gas at about 6 p.m.

"For an independent station like ourselves, if we don't sell gas, it really hurts," he said. "If we don't have gas, we don't sell anything. People were panicking. They were loading up, filling extra gas cans."

He received no information from Conoco to help him make a decision until late in the afternoon, Velazquez said.

The Johnson County District Attorney's office told him to offer refunds on gas purchased at the higher price, Velazquez said. He said he didn't know what the legal consequences of the store's actions would be or how it would affect its relationship with Conoco. But he said his main concern was with the community.

"We want to get the message out that we're sorry and are offering refunds," he said.

Cherie Sage, public information coordinator the American Automobile Association of Kansas, said any consequences from Tuesday's events on oil supplies will be temporary.

With no justification for those prices, she expects prices to return pre-crisis levels.

"We hope as things settle down, we'll see an end to knee-jerk reactions and see prices come down," she said. "The major oil companies are asking distributors and station owners to exercise restraint."

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