Drivers Run to California Gas Station for 69¢ per Gallon Gas Price

Many people are putting plans for the ultimate road trip on hold this summer as gasoline prices continue to soar to record highs, with no relief in sight.

In California, where the average price for a gallon of gas is currently well over $6.00, motorists were delighted to come across a gas station last week selling gas for just 69¢ a gallon. While the sale was short-lived, drivers came from near and far to take advantage of the shockingly low price.

Skyrocketing gas prices in the U.S.

Cars lining up at the ZY Oil gas station for free gas in Compton, California
Cars lining up at a California gas station | Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

Motorists are struggling to keep their tanks full, with the price for a gallon of gas higher than ever before. As inflation continues to rise, CNBC reports that gas prices are “up a whopping 48.7% since last year and 4.1% just in the last month.”

According to Gas Buddy, at this time last year, the average nationwide price for a gallon of gas was $3.13, with today’s average at $1.75 more per gallon.

Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at Gas Buddy, said, “While we may see relief as we approach July 4, and potentially after, the volatility in markets remains high. We still could see a super spike in gas prices later this summer, should a hurricane threaten Gulf Coast oil refineries or oil platforms.” He explained, “Motorists should know that while we may see small relief today, risks remain that prices could go up at a moment’s notice and set new records again.”

One gas station in California made a mistake

Drivers received an unexpected treat when a Shell gas station in Rancho Cordova, California, mistakenly charged 69¢ for a gallon of premium gas

Word spread fast as people started posting on social media and calling family and friends about the cheap gas. According to Insider, the scene turned “into a circus in a matter of minutes.” Motorists cashed in on the savings for more than three hours before the station corrected the price.

The manager of the Shell gas station, John Szczecina, was fired after the owner discovered he mistakenly put a decimal point in the wrong place, setting the price to 69¢ instead of $6.99 per gallon.

According to AAA, the current average gas price in California is $6.29 per gallon, so the Shell Station intended to charge 70¢ more per gallon.

Motorists had the last laugh, filling up their vehicles as they received $6.30 savings per gallon. Customers with smaller vehicles were paying a mere $14 for a full tank, while it cost only $17.94 to fill up a 26-gallon tank in a larger vehicle. At $6.99, that same car would cost $181.74 to fill up. Needless to say, there were some very happy customers that day.

CBS Sacramento reported the error cost the gas station approximately $16,000. Szczecina is taking responsibility for his mistake, telling the news outlet, “Yeah, it’s my fault, and I’m to blame.” His family, worried about being sued, has set up a GoFundMe campaign in an attempt to repay the gas station owner.

According to local news affiliate KKTV, “The last time gas prices were an average of 69¢ a gallon was 44 years ago, in 1978.”

Why are gas prices so high?

Economists attribute the outrageous gas prices to several factors, with Kiplinger stating that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic “Threw oil markets severely out of whack.” As millions of drivers began to stay home, the global oil demand decreased, causing plunging crude oil prices. In response, major oil exporters reduced fuel production.

The demand for crude oil and gasoline is returning to pre-pandemic levels, but oil production has not been able to keep up, with current U.S. production nowhere near 2019 levels. The rising prices at the pump are also a result of the war in Ukraine, with sanctions imposed on Russian oil, which accounts for 10% of the world’s supply of crude oil. 

Additionally, there is inflation, which has a grasp on the nation’s economy and doesn’t seem to want to let go. For now, all we can do is hope another gas station attendant makes an error with a decimal point.

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