Gas prices are high, but $5.59 a gallon? That’s what drivers pulling up to a Shell station at in Orlando, FL are paying. They say they don’t find out what the price is until they get their receipt. Talk about Shell-shock.
Reader Edward sent in his receipt, shown above, showing how a recent fill-up cost him $5.59 for a gallon of gas. He says the receipt was the first indication of the price, which GasBuddy.com says is about $2 more than the going market rate in Orlando. When he first sent in his tip on Aug 23, Edward said there was no sign on the lot. When I followed up with him on Aug 31, he said that the gas station had since added a sign near the entrance, but it was only waist-high and partially obscured by bushes. It was unlit, he said, and only displayed prices for one of the grades, with the two other spots blank.
All but 2 of the 11 reviews left on this Shell station’s Google Maps page from this Feb-August complain about the gas prices being $1-$2 higher than other stations in the area. Several of them mention poor or missing signage.
Looking up the address in Google Street View, I wasn’t able to identify any of the large, tall signs displaying gas prices that are commonly found in front of gas stations. It’s uncertain how long ago the Street View pictures were taken. In footage from a local news report covering this issue, the only prices that were displayed were on the digital readouts above the buttons on the pumps themselves. If you, dear reader, have driven by this Shell station, we’d be interested in hearing or seeing pictures of the signage situation.
UPDATE: Reader Chris sent in several photos of this specific Shell station. There is a gas price sign among the bushes. It is not the tall type usually associated with gas stations. There are also prices above the buttons on the pumps themselves.
When I called up, identifying myself as a Consumerist.com writer, the Shell station disagreed with the consumers’ assessments. The prices for regular were now actually $5.89/gallon, with hi-octane at $5.99. The man who picked up the phone also said that there was a sign outside with the prices and the prices were displayed on the pumps.
I asked the man why the prices were so higher than what local competitors were charging. “That’s the price the company charges,” he said, “they didn’t tell us why they charged it.”
However, Shell corporate told me they don’t set individual retail location gas prices. “Shell-branded station operators are primarily independent business people who make their own operating decisions and, who by law, have the right to set fuel prices as they believe appropriate,” they said.
The gas station is in a high tourist traffic area between downtown Orlando and Universal Studios and is situated near a cluster of eight car rental locations.
Reached for comment, Florida’s Department of Weights and Measures said there was no weights and measures regulations that require roadside signs to be posted. They said that they inspect this gas station at least once a month to make sure the digital prices on the individual pumps are accurate.
Orlando passed an ordinance in May requiring gas stations to prominently post their gas prices. The law came about after frequent complaints about the Sun Gas and Suncoast Energys stations near the Orlando International Airport who were charging $5/gallon. There consumers also said there wasn’t enough, or any, signage indicating the price. The law stipulates a $250/day fine for non-compliance.
Part of what got media attention from outlets like WFTV and the Orlando Sentinel was a local artist who decided to stand in front of one of the stations wearing a sign with their prices on it. If they weren’t going to do it, he would do the job for them.