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Especially if you lived in or near Rancho Cordova, California, the gas price at one gas station was almost free. You could have purchased gas for $0.69 a gallon last week. That’s because a Shell station there made a small mistake, that turned out to be a big one. And it’s for one tiny reason: a decimal point. 

Why was the gas price so cheap?

When will gas prices go down 2022
Gas prices on May 25, 2022, in Menlo Park, California | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The price was supposed to be $6.99 a gallon. Yes, prices are supercharged these days in Cali. Thanks, Putin! The average price of gas there is $6.43. Anyway, with the decimal point in the wrong position, this happened. 

When a customer purchased that cheap gas, the word began to spread on social media. Some lucky buyers even filmed themselves on Instagram filling up. “We’ve got to fight these gas prices somehow- 69 cents a gallon, I’m loving this,” one happy buyer told Newsweek. 

Darryl Surita, the happy buyer, went on to say,  “I posted this on my Instagram and replied to anyone who messaged me. I called my mom and told her, and called my brother and told him, too. I thought it was too good to be true until I checked the gas meter in the car and it was full, but I only spent 14 dollars. Then I filled my car up, left, came back with a second car, filled it up, then left again and came back with my cousin, and filled up 150 gallons of a 500-gallon tank. The whole gas station was filled with cars and people with extra gas cans.”

Didn’t the crazy cheap gas price happen before?

Good news travels fast. We know because we reported on a similarly misplaced decimal happening in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in April. At another Shell gas station, gas that should have been selling for $4.10 a gallon, was selling for 0.41 a gallon. Yep, another decimal point mistake.

In that case, the one person who discovered the error told the station attendant, who quickly changed the price. He knew that the owner was a local resident, and that probably he, not Shell, would have to pay the difference. 

How long was the price so cheap?

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen in Rancho Cordova. It took over three hours before station management finally saw the problem. Those who purchased gas before the price correction got lucky. 

As we approach the heart and heat of summer, and the war in Ukraine drags on, gas prices are expected to continue to rise. Even though Exxon made a record profit of $5.4 billion in the last quarter alone. That’s twice what it reported making the previous quarter.

This raises the question, “Are rising gasoline prices really because of Russia’s war with Ukraine and the sanctions placed on it, or is it merely a case of simple greed? Senior White House officials met with both Exxon and Chevron CEOs this week. So let’s hope some relief comes from that. 

Update: The man who imputed the wrong prices was fired. John Szczecina takes full credit for the $16,000 mistake. His family has set up a GoFundMe page now that he has lost his job.


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