Survey shows residents go out of town to buy gas

Results: A Salmon Arm Chamber of Commerce survey showed the majority of respondents buy their gasoline out of town due to lower prices elsewhere. - Observer file photo
Results: A Salmon Arm Chamber of Commerce survey showed the majority of respondents buy their gasoline out of town due to lower prices elsewhere.
— image credit: Observer file photo

Salmon Arm residents and retailers are fed up with having to pay higher prices at the pump locally than they would, and do, in neighbouring communities.

On Jan. 24, the Salmon Arm Chamber of Commerce posted on its website a public survey asking for input on buying habits related to gasoline purchases and out-of-town shopping, along with related comments. The chamber received 777 completed surveys, with comments largely critical of the inequity of shopping local for fuel.

Some of the feedback received by the chamber includes comments such as: “Very sad residents of Salmon Arm are being gouged…” and “I would like to purchase gas in Salmon Arm, but the price per litre is just not competitive.” Other people comment that gasoline prices here are “ridiculously expensive” and others say they absolutely refuse to buy gas in Salmon Arm.

As for the survey questions, 666 of the respondents said they are often filling up out of town with 177 doing it once a week and 291 doing it twice a month. The majority said they fill up out of town for the lower prices. Six-hundred and four claimed the lower, out-of-town gas prices lead them to make other purchases, particularly groceries, clothing and electronics.

Last Monday, chamber president Jim Kimmerly provided the survey results to city council. He summed up its results and asked that the city help the chamber to address the matter with petroleum companies.

“There’s some serious damage being done to the retail trade here in Salmon Arm as a result of these gas prices and, I think, through all the exercises that we’ve gone through, it would be more than appropriate for the City of Salmon Arm and the chamber of commerce to ask the petroleum companies that are present here in Salmon Arm to come here for a meeting and try and get this sorted out,” said Kimmerly.

“I thought Walmart was going to solve all these problems,” replied Coun. Chad Eliason before asking if the lack of competition is related to the lack of an independent fuel retailer.

Kimmerly said yes, noting how over the past two months, local gas prices have been steady at $125.9 per litre, while in Vernon, Enderby, Kamloops, prices have fluctuated three or four times.

“So we’ve almost got cartel-like pricing here because we don’t get the movement,” said Kimmerly. “I guess Chevron feels they’ve become more competitive because everybody is at 125.9 and they’re at 125.8. I don’t see any lineups at the pumps; I don’t think that’s working as well as maybe they hoped.”

Coun. Denise Reimer explained that she works in Kamloops where she regularly sees competitive gas pricing, typically 10 cents less than in Salmon Arm. She supported the city and the chamber meeting with the petroleum companies. Coun. Alan Harrison agreed, saying, “I don’t think we should just throw our hands up and say that’s the way it’s going to be. We’ve got to try our best.”

Eliason, council’s representative on the chamber, suggested trying a sort of “cash mob” campaign where people only support the local fuel retailer with the lowest price. Kimmerly said, however, that retailers have little or no say over promotions or gas prices – that would be the petroleum companies.

Council agreed to support a resolution to co-operate with the chamber to facilitate a meeting with those companies, possibly in the first week of April.


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