MERRILL, Wis. (AP)- A service station that offered discounted gas to senior
citizens and people supporting youth sports has been ordered by the state to
raise its prices.
Center City BP owner Raj Bhandari has been offering
senior citizens a 2 cent per gallon price break and discount cards that let
sports boosters pay 3 cents less per gallon.
But the state Department of
Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection says those deals violate Wisconsin's
Unfair Sales Act, which requires stations to sell gas for about 9.2 percent more
than the wholesale price.
Bhandari said he received a letter from the
state auditor last month saying the state would sue him if he did not raise his
prices. The state could penalize him for each discounted gallon he sold, with
the fine determined by a judge.
Bhandari, who bought the station a year
ago, said he worries customers will think he stopped the discounts because he
wants to make more money. About 10 percent of his customers had used the
Dale Van Camp said he bought a $50 card to support the
local youth hockey program. It would have saved him about $100 per year on gas,
I first saw this story on the net a few days ago and it has been bouncing around in my head for close to a week. I thin today the blood started to trickle out of my ears from the hemorrhage that the sheer “DO WHAT?!?!” has caused me to suffer. The last time I checked this was still a free market economy and retailers (unregulated ones of course) we free to charge whatever the hell their conscience will allow.
I am quoting here from the National Federation of Independent Business’s website:
According to Wisconsin's Unfair Sales Act (also known as the minimum mark-up
law) it is illegal (with certain exceptions) to sell products at retail at less
than cost with the intent or effect of diverting trade from a competitor. Cost
(other than motor vehicle fuel) is determined as the lesser of the invoice cost
or replacement cost of the merchandise. Minimum mark-up requirements do not
apply to merchandise sold in clearance sales, damaged goods and merchandise at
risk of spoiling. The minimum mark-up requirements also do not apply if the
merchandise is priced in good faith to meet the existing price of a competitor.
Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t the whole idea of running a business to divert business away from a competitor? And if I, as a business owner am willing to take a hickey on an item to get you in the door, who the hell is the government to tell me I can’t? This sounds an awful lot like the way an economy of a certain former Soviet Republic was running right before it collapsed in on itself.
The website goes on to say that the law was designed to keep small town America from losing local businesses to the “mega” retailers. But here’s the thing on that topic, those “mega stores” were once a local businesses that made their business model work. Why should they be punished for their success? If your town is truly upset about losing local businesses to the “mega stores” the answer is simple…don’t give them you patronage. That’s how a free economy works. Take your business to the local retailer. I do, whenever I can, but it is hard to pay 10-20% more at the local place over Wally World. I do not think that it is the state or federal government’s place or responsibility to make sure my business succeeds. That is my job.
Anything else is socialism at best and communism at worst.