Gas Station Owner Accidentally Sells Gas For $0.35, But Is Glad To Have Made People Happy

Mimi Zidan owns the Lucky Mart in Pekin, IL, where a pricing mistake resulted in a mob of gas thirsty customers, rushing to take advantage of pumps that were dispensing gas for only $0.35 per gallon. You’d think she’d be upset about losing so much money, but she’s not.

“We lost about 1,000 gallons of gas and about $3,500,” Mimi Zidan, owner of the Lucky Mart on Derby Street, said Wednesday. “But I don’t feel too bad because the people looked so happy when they were buying gas. If I can do this for them, that’s all right.”

The attendant on duty accidentally adjusted the pumps to sell gas for 35 cents instead of $3.50, and during the two hours before they were corrected people called their friends to tell them about the mistake.

The result was that the situation at Derby and South Fifth streets was totally chaotic, with traffic backed up in all directions when Zidan returned to the store.

“I thought it was an accident,” Zidan said. “For the first 10 minutes I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to say you must stop, the price is wrong.”

But once the police came in and restored some order, she felt better.

Her sister, Amy Habal, who helps run the store, said it would have been nice if someone had told them about the mistake instead of calling their friends.

“But my sister is very kind, she does not think bad about people,” Habal said.


Lucky customers pump 35-cent gas
[Peoria J-S] (Thanks, Eyebrows McGee!)
(Photo: spinadelic )

Comments

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  1. lrbreckenripple says:

    Don’t make fun of immigrant Gas Station owners. They’re good people as this article demonstrates.

    • shorty63136 says:

      @lrbreckenripple: Uh…I didn’t get that sentiment from this entry.

      • lrbreckenripple says:

        @shorty63136: Am I to blame for your shortcomings?

      • rellog says:

        It’s easy to be nice when you don’t pay taxes…
        Many immigrant owners come for 7 years and “sell” to a family member when they move back to their respective countries…

        • azntg says:

          @rellog: Proof, please.

          Some of us long since stopped taking people at their word anymore (guess what happened when we did? They’re still making headlines in the news today.).

          BTW: Don’t forget to include your own proof of US Citizenship and proof of proper payment of taxes for the last 7 years. ;-)

        • godlyfrog says:

          @rellog: That’s an urban legend designed to promote hatred towards non-. A quick Google search brings up Snopes: [www.snopes.com]

        • Sidecutter says:

          @rellog: Are you serious? It’s nearly impossible for anyone to be running a gas station without paying the approrpiate taxes generated by the business. And if you’re implying that they are illegal immigrants, and not paying their personal taxes on their own income from the business, please explain how you think they got all the necessary licenses and business tax IDs required to do business with wholesalers. It’s not going to happen.

  2. unsunder says:

    Wow. I live 5 minutes away from Pekin. Too bad no one called me.

  3. Nixi says:

    Sounds like Mimi is one in a million. If it were me I would still be cursing the day away.

  4. mcreigh says:

    Aww, they’re taking it so well. Imagine if something like this happened at Comcast.

  5. BeeBoo says:

    The people who took advantage of an obvious error ought to be ashamed.

    • SuperiorInky says:

      @BeeBoo: Are you saying you wouldn’t? Error or not, I wouldn’t let an opportunity like this pass me by.

      • startertan says:

        @SuperiorInky: Agreed. The gas station across from work was selling premium for $2.68/gal one day as opposed to $3.68 which was what was on the sign. I filled up and then we over to work and e-mailed the entire office!

        I would consider this a variation on “a f*ck up on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine”.

      • balthisar says:

        @SuperiorInky: I would, but then would immediately let the gas station owner know about the error after paying, rather than calling a flood of people to take advantage of the obvious error. And after having paid, if they wanted to charge me the difference, I’d happily pay because I’m not a thief that takes advantage of obvious mistakes. They’d probably not ask me to pay the difference, though.

        • coolkiwilivin says:

          @balthisar: exactly. My dad owned a gas station ten years ago, an Amoco. It was a pumper and he made about $.01 a gallon on regular and more on the other grades. He was not rolling in the dough. A $3500 mistake would have cost him probably his pay for the month or an employee their pay for the month. To everyone who says, what’s the big deal, ask yourself. Put yourself in that situation and how would you feel? It’s YOUR money not someone elses? I think we would see a lot of different reactions here. I’m glad the owner could be glad about it. If anything hopefully it’s a great PR move and people will respond kindly to this store.

      • cordeliapotter says:

        @SuperiorInky: If I had a car, I would totally steal from Shell or Exxon, but never from some indie operator.

        • Orv says:

          @cordeliapotter: If you steal from a Shell or Exxon station, you *are* stealing from the operator. Those stations aren’t run directly by Shell or Exxon, they’re run by franchisees who pay to use that brand name.

      • mugsywwiii says:

        @SuperiorInky:
        Wow, that’s pretty pathetic. Apparently your integrity is worth the price of a tank of gas.

        • SuperiorInky says:

          @mugsywwiii: Sadly it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. Besides, I bet some of these customers though it was some crazy promotion (as ridiculous as that sounds).

          Also, be careful of whose integrity you slander. Cause if my integrity is the price of a tank of gas, than my integrity happens to be your money.

      • AmbroseP says:

        @SuperiorInky:
        Opportunity? There’s a definite line between opportunity and exploitation.

    • mzs says:

      @BeeBoo: This ‘mistake’ happened a few years ago around where I used to live. A friend of mine used to work there at the time. he told me that someone complained and in an investigation it turned-out not to be a mistake at all but a money laundering scam that I cannot recall the details of. Soon after that the place became a Clark.

    • mizike says:

      @BeeBoo:

      I totally agree. I love a good deal as much as the next person, but ripping off a small business owner who obviously made a mistake is just mean. No one sells gas for 10% of it’s value, all the customers knew they were basically stealing from a small business owner yet flocked there in droves….says something about our society doesn’t it…

  6. lannister80 says:

    I live about 2 miles from Pekin. I didn’t know there were any foreigners anywhere in that town.

    /whitebreadcity

  7. PixiePerson says:

    I’m glad she’s taking it in stride and with a smile. But I would like to think better of people than what obviously happened — I agree with the sister.

  8. LordofthePing says:

    She was taken advantage of, this is what happens when people lose a sense of decency.

  9. wtrwlkr says:

    I agree that the someone should’ve told the attendant about the obvious pricing error. Some people look at it as sticking it to the man, when in reality, all they’re hurting is a small business owner.

  10. thaJack says:

    In some states they might be in trouble, though… and I’m talking about the gas station owners.

    Some states of minimum gas price laws and they are preventing other stations from being competitive by selling the gas so cheap.

    Ridiculous.

    • shorty63136 says:

      @thaJack: You don’t think they’d get a pass on that since it was an honest mistake by an attendant? (assuming, of course, that it was an honest mistake?

      • cmdrsass says:

        As far as the government is concerned, where tax revenues are involved there are no honest mistakes. It’s pay up or else. She’ll have to pay the full tax on all underpriced gas.

        • GearheadGeek says:

          @cmdrsass: Most states assess their fuel tax on a per-gallon basis, not a percentage of the sales price. Illinois charges both, so they’re definitely on the hook for the per-gallon excise tax, but I don’t see any way the state could justify collecting sales tax on a price different from that at which the 1000 gallons were actually sold.

    • mugsywwiii says:

      @thaJack:

      Mandatory minimum gas prices aren’t intended to prevent gas stations from being competitive. They’re intended to prevent gas stations from being anti-competitive. They’re intended to prevent large chains from operating a station at a loss to drive another station out of business, after which they jack up the price to whatever they want. The free market is great and all, but when the cost of entry is high it lends itself to monopolization.

  11. ElizabethD says:

    Unleaded = $3.24 at a Gulf in RI this morning. Damn; I just filled up two days ago at $3.55!

  12. CountryJustice says:

    I’m not so quick to cast aspersions on the people who took advantage of the situation. Gas stations do gimmicky stuff like this all the time, usually in conjunction with a radio station or something; who’s to say that it couldn’t have been perceived as just another promotional stunt?

    In that same light, you gotta wonder how much incidental repeat business this error might generate for the gas station.

    All in all though it’s awesome that the owner has such a great attitude about it.

    • dorianh49 says:

      @CountryJustice: Yeah, but if the sign says $3.509 and the pump says $0.3509, even Verizon could figure THAT one out.

    • Parting says:

      @CountryJustice: Yes, but radios will promote those type of event, and will have their vehiles on the spot.

      Don’t forget that those types of promos are partially assumed by advertisers. So gas station does not lose money.

      In this case, people took advantage.

  13. thaJack says:

    I think they should get a pass.. I don’t, in fact, think one should be required. I think if you want to sell gasoline today for a dime a gallon, you should be allowed to. That’s what free enterprise is all about, right?

  14. chiieddy says:

    I’m always reading about people running away with obvious gross pricing errors. Gas station gimmicks are $.10 off, not $3 off. And we do know gas station owners aren’t the ones taking profits on the high prices. It’s the oil companies.

    Where did people’s sense of decency go? They get the freebie, but TELL the gas station attendants!

  15. Zanorfes says:

    Integrity is doing the right thing even when nobody is looking. What does this say about us as a people? Frankly, I’m ashamed that people can be so dishonest and instead of doing the right thing call their friends to further prolong the dishonesty. Furthermore…(brb) just got a call that this is happening somewhere close by…….

  16. I’m surprised the clerk didn’t notice. Even with self serve, there should be a readout inside of what the pumps are doing. And yeah, get your tank, then tell the attendant.

  17. BrianDaBrain says:

    Who expected that people would take advantage of a situation like this? Probably all of you. And I bet that if you were in the same situation, you probably wouldn’t report it either. If you did report it, it wouldn’t be until after you filled up your tank. Not saying it’s right, per se, but that it’s human nature.

    I’m glad to see the owner is taking a $3500 hit in stride though.

    • Parting says:

      @BrianDaBrain: In this case NO ONE had decency to report it after filling up.

    • floraposte says:

      @BrianDaBrain: You’re projecting. Lots of us aren’t comfortable taking advantage of somebody, and will let somebody know about a price error when we purchase something. I suspect somebody would have notified her earlier if the transactions were face to face, rather than just swiping one’s card at the pump, as people are less likely to take advantage of a person they’ve actually seen, but I’m still surprised at how long it took before she was informed.

  18. UnStatusTheQuo says:

    I’d still take it for $3.50. It’s about $0.50 less than some around here.

    • @UnStatusTheQuo: I was about to say the same thing. I’d be very happy if one of the gas stations around me “accidentally” starting selling gas for $3.50/gal, fer pete’s sake!

    • parnote says:

      @UnStatusTheQuo: WOW! Gas prices are dropping like a rock dropped from a B2 bomber here in KC!! I just paid $2.919 a gallon yesterday, and there’s another station in town selling if for $0.02 cheaper! But in mid-Missouri, gas is still $3.259 a gallon, on average.

      Hehehe … and I thought I was getting a bargain at $2.919 a gallon!!!! Sad, isn’t it!?

  19. humphrmi says:

    See, I would think differently – tell the attendant about it, and maybe they’ll be so happy that I reported it, that they give me a free tank of gas. I just saved even more! ;-)

  20. Pylon83 says:

    When did it become a consumers responsibility to baby sit a business? It may have been an obvious error to some, but a reasonable person could indeed conclude that it was a gimmicky promotion. The attendant should have noticed something was up, and the one who made the error should be out of a job. Stupid mistakes like this happen when people get lazy and complacent and stop paying attention to what they are doing. The consumers have no obligation, ethical or otherwise, to tell the attendant that they think the gas is too cheap. Now I would have a different opinion if they were not being charged at all or were exploiting an obvious flaw with the pump to get gas at less than the posted price. But that isn’t what happened here. An attendant who works for the station screwed up and the price on the pump was $.35. The consumers got exactly what was advertised with no trickery or unethical behavior. This is also completely distinguishable from situations where a product is on the wrong shelf in a store. In that case, the consumer has reason to know that the price on the shelf is not the price for the item, usually because the shelf tag says what the item is for or it’s obviously out of place. Here, the driver pulls up. On the pump, it says “Unleaded: $.35/gal”. They fill up and leave. There is no deception or attempted deception. Yeah, it would be nice for the owner if someone had questioned it, but you can’t look down upon those who didn’t.

    • Parting says:

      @Pylon83: Oh yes I can look down on those jerks. Gas station are not very profitable small business, especially when they are not part of a major chain.

      In a big store, a pricing error is just a mistake, that does not affect general margin.

      In this case, such mistake may cause a lot of pain for the small business owner. An may cause a chain reaction with creditors/payments.

      The basic decent thing to do would be at least telling the rep about the mistake after fueling up.

      And I wouldn’t like live in a city that people lack human decency THAT much.

    • Parting says:

      @Pylon83: And she did have to call police to be able to clear this up!

    • PlanetExpressdelivery says:

      @Pylon83: It’s hit well…it could go…yes, there it is folks, social decency has been hit out of the park.

    • Snockered says:

      @Pylon83: It’s not really about a responsibility to babysit but a responsibility to be nice to other human beings. If a cashier gives me too much change and I notice I’ll give it back. Why? Because I know it’ll be a pain in the ass when they try to close out and their count is off. In some places that difference comes out of their pocket. I don’t really need that extra 5 10 or even 20 dollars–and I’m pretty broke.

      All of these people were taking advantage of this woman who is now out thousands of dollars and it’s wrong.

      • Corbin123 says:

        @Suzi: Pylon, I totally agree with you. And lol at the people who are saying at least fill and and then tell her. Yeah, let me get mine first, as if that is anymore “decent.”

    • Antediluvian says:

      @Pylon83: If the gas was actually $3.50 / gal but rang up at $35.00 / gal, I’m pretty sure you’d complain to the station attendant.

      Why is it okay for you to rip someone else off but not for them to rip you off?

      Ethics works both ways.

      What do you do when a cashier gives you back too little change? Is it the same thing as when you get back too much change? It is for me: I tell the person you gave me the wrong amount back, whether it’s too much or too little.

    • mugsywwiii says:

      @Pylon83:
      I don’t think you understand what “ethical” means.

    • Orv says:

      @Pylon83: If a pump were broken and was dispensing gas for free, would you still consider it OK to take it and not tell anyone? I’m not accusing you of anything, I’m just curious where you draw the line on this one.

      I ask partly because it does come up from time to time. There was a gas station near where I used to live in Michigan that had a broken credit card authorization system. If you swiped something that wasn’t a credit card, it would still dispense gas, even though the charge failed. A dozen or so college students discovered this and got free gas by swiping their driver’s licenses (which in MI have a mag strip). They were charged with theft, because the broken system still recorded their DL numbers. Do you think it was wrong for them to be charged with a crime?

    • mugsywwiii says:

      @Pylon83:
      And I absolutely look down on the people who saw the error and didn’t report it, just like I look down on you.

    • jhurley03 says:

      @Pylon83: So if you owned a small business, and one your employees priced something incorrectly, you wouldn’t want a customer to tell you about it? You obviously have no ethical standards.

    • AmbroseP says:

      @Pylon83:
      By no means does a “reasonable person” standard apply here. If there’s a large banner brazenly advertising “$0.35 CHEAP GAS, BUY NOW!” then, yes, a person would clearly understand this is some gimmicky promotion and take advantage of it. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case. The error was on a pump and, from what I’ve read, not on a large sign right outside the station.

      You also say:
      “The consumers have no obligation, ethical or otherwise, to tell the attendant that they think the gas is too cheap.”

      I agree with you that there’s no obligation to tell the attendant that they think the gas is too cheap. But, that’s a pretty stupid statement to make on your part because that’s not the point here.

      There has to be some sort of ethical obligation to at least tell someone there might be an error in the system if they notice that the price on the large sign differs from what a particular pump reads–especially for a small business owner!

      Most importantly, how would YOU react if the pump had read HIGHER than the price posted on the station sign? You’d be screaming, “fraud, cheat, lair, crook, thief!” and would also be demanding a refund. This case is no different.

      Of course, you could just be a “greedy” “vulture” as others have commented, and call it a day.

      I’m just glad that there are people on this board who realize that what these people did was wrong.

      • dragonfire81 says:

        @AmbroseP: The thing about is that gas prices are at a pretty universal level these days, between 3.50 and say 4.25 a gallon.

        If I pull up to a pump and it says 0.35, I know something is up. Gas NEVER comes that cheap anymore.

  21. gladiatory2k says:

    She was smiling as she signed the attendant’s pink slip too. It’s nice to see her take it in stride. After seeing so many examples of corporate greed, I am not sure if consumer greed is much better.

  22. katbur2 says:

    Little things that redeem ones faith in humanity :)

    • youbastid says:

      @katbur2: Really? A bunch of people acting like vultures and taking advantage of an error, and the poor woman that has to deal with it acts like a pushover and is too fearful of people’s reactions to do anything until the police get there? That does it for you?

      • shanoaravendare says:

        @youbastid: I think they were referring to the owner not flipping out and trying to find a way to sue all the people who filled up.

        Either that or they are missing a sarcasm tag.

  23. acasto says:

    It amazes me what people will do for cheap gas. My car only holds ten gallons and that gets me by for at least a week, usually two or so. There is no way I’m going to stop what I’m doing, whatever it is, and rush out and wait in line so I can save a few bucks.

  24. Crymson_77 says:

    Frankly, I truly appreciate this wonderful lady’s attitude. That is a one in a million response.

  25. opsomath says:

    I’m pretty shocked at the number of people that are defending the people who bought the gas, didn’t tell the attendant, and called their friends. This is a straight-up mistake, pure and simple, and you shouldn’t take advantage of it any more than if the owner had dropped their wallet on the ground.

  26. "I Like Potatoes" says:

    You would think it would send up a red flag when everyone was only paying 5 to 10 dollars per customer instead of the usual 50 to 100.

    • "I Like Potatoes" says:

      @algal924:
      Also….did they continue to sell gas after they realized the mistake? I was unclear about that from the story. I think I would have shut the place down.

      • tellervision says:

        @algal924:
        Yes, but she didn’t know how to handle it.

        “I thought it was an accident,” Zidan said. “For the first 10 minutes I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to say you must stop, the price is wrong.”

      • Parting says:

        @algal924: They had to call police for that. I guess those thieves weren’t that friendly when the owner tried to correct the mistake.

  27. Tank says:

    probably the best $3500 she ever invested on her business. i bet folks were buyin crap inside, and will come back just to see if another mistake is made. it’ll come back to her ten times over in the long run

  28. JollyJumjuck says:

    If the attendant did not get fired or made responsible, he/she is very lucky indeed. I used to work at a full serve gas station where attendants were allowed to make pumping errors up to $0.05 per 100 liters (about 26 gallons). Anything more would come off your paycheque. And keep in mind this was during the days of manual gauge pumps where you couldn’t just select $10 or $20 worth of gas. If the customer asked for $10 worth of gas and you accidently pumped $10.50 because it got very busy and you couldn’t get back to him in time, they got $0.50 worth of gas at the attendant’s expense. I can imagine if this situation were to happen at the place I used to work at, the attendant would be fired on the spot and be forced to pay back the station owner to boot.

    • BeeBoo says:

      Th@JollyJumjuck: Likely it’s a self-serve station. The attendant wasn’t pumping the gas, just inside the store taking the money. The customers I mean thieves may also have been paying by credit card at the pump, which I think is the most likely explanation for why it wasn’t caught sooner.

    • humphrmi says:

      @JollyJumjuck: In most states, it is illegal to withhold mistakes (even gross negligence) from pay, or expect repayment. In fact, in some states, it’s illegal to withhold employee theft from pay, that’s the job of the courts / police. Illinois is one of those states.

  29. S-the-K says:

    Obviously the reason nobody told them about the mistake is because they are the “evil rich” that I’ve been hearing about who earn over $200,000 in revenue. They’re “rich”. They can afford it, the Community Organizers tell me. If the “evil rich” accidentally price a thing at what we think it is worth, the first thing we need to do is take our fair share from them.

  30. I hope some of those people at least bought a soda or something else inside the station.

    But, like has been mentioned, she has an awesome attitude – and probably a job opening.

  31. amw5g says:

    Just don’t call her sister a bad name. *Especially* if you’re Italian! Then you’ll see her bad side…

  32. Adisharr says:

    To the people that would knowingly profit on pricing a mistake like this, you’re not screwing a big oil company out of their profits, only the station owner who only makes pennies per gallon.

    Go ahead and feel free to defend your actions.

  33. reynwrap582 says:

    It’s pretty shocking the cavalier attitude many of you have about this, willing to just screw a small business owner so that you can “stick it to the man!” or whatever justification you can possibly come up with. I always thought this site was supposed to be pro-consumer, but many of the commenters are just plain anti-business, even when those businesses are small businesses run by independent people just trying to make a living. Not all businesses are evil, and not all business owners deserve to be screwed over by their consumers. It is possible to have a fair, friendly and balanced business/consumer relationship.

    And before anyone accuses me of being willing to rip off the gas station owner, realize I’m the type of person who will go back to a store and let them know I was undercharged for something, or to correct the amount of change I’ve been given. Why? Because I’ve worked in fast food, retail, and have owned a small business myself. I know the big impact that small mistakes can have, and I don’t want to be the reason a business suffers.

    And no reasonable person is going to say “35 cents a gallon? The sign says $3.50 a gallon and there’s no obvious material indicating a promotion…it must not be a mistake!”

  34. jhurley03 says:

    Someone should have notified the attendant, instead of taking advantage of them.

  35. AmbroseP says:

    Like I’ve mentioned in a reply to another commenter:

    “Most importantly, how would YOU react if the pump had read HIGHER than the price posted on the station sign? You’d be screaming, “fraud, cheat, lair, crook, thief!” and would also be demanding a refund. This case is no different.”

    Moral reasoning, above action based on innate behavior, is the only thing that sets us apart from animals. As far as I’m concerned, we as a population still have a lot of work to do in that regard…

    • BeeBoo says:

      @AmbroseP: I never even thought of that, you’ve managed to nail the issue in a way even the crooks should understand.

      Some people will say something if they are shorted when a cashier makes change but say nothing if they get back too much.

  36. nidolke says:

    I’d be lined up with my car with 5 extra containers in the trunk. A 5 dollar fill-up, you just can’t pass by. CALL ME EVIL.

  37. SinisterMatt says:

    I’d be interested in knowing what her profits are on the food and drinks that people most likely bought when they got through what were very long lines.

    Maybe that’s the real reason she’s smiling.

    Cheers!

  38. Psychosocial says:

    I would have cut them off right in the middle of pumping gas as soon as I figured out the mistake. Gotta love people’s honesty. Sigh. I’m soooo rooting for the big asteroid. Please hurry.

  39. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    It sounds like looting to me (and no, I wouldn’t have participated).

    Hopefully they two sisters will at least get some good publicity for it..they deserve something for being so pleasant after having been (more or less) robbed.

  40. Do unto others as you would like done to you.

    Last night I dropped a $20 from my wallet while standing in line to pre-pay my gas. The elderly lady standing behind me retrieved my wayward $20 and returned it to me.

    Thank you.

    BTW this entire thread is a good example of doing to others like you would like done to you.

  41. 718brooklyn says:

    I am happy to hear that there are atleast a few people in this world who are not only concerned with profits / revenues. People like Mimi are wonderful. Love her positive attitude towards the whole situation. Clicked on the story thinking it would be a negative story for the owner yet it turned out the complete opposite. Sometimes we do need to realize that life is not about money but about happiness!

    PS: I wish I was there for some gas also :)

  42. majortom1029 says:

    Im a semi nice guy. I would have pumped my gas then went and told them about the error. lol

  43. fonfa says:

    I had many chances of taking advantage of businesses and individuals like that. Buying a $2000 dell pc for $200, buying a $100 watch for $2, many times i got more change back and i never did it. Always gave it back. And i’m not a wealthy person, i could really use the extra money but i’d never take advantage of someone. It’s just not right.