1. There’s a lot going on underneath gas stations.
According to Ed Weglarz, the Director of Petroleum at Associated Food & Petroleum Dealers (AFPD), there can be as many as five underground tanks, storing tens of thousands of gallons of fuel. “In addition, the system will have submerged pumps on top of the tanks, automatic line leak detectors, probes in each tank that provide real-time automatic tank gauging monitoring, alarm systems to prevent overfilling and sacrificial anodes on steel tanks to prevent corrosion,” adds Weglarz.
2. Gas stations don’t make that much money off gas.
They get only pennies per gallon after taxes and operating costs. In fact, gas station owners hate high gas prices just as much as you do. As the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), explains, “Fuel retailers typically see profitability decrease as prices rise, and increase when prices fall.” Instead, most of their profit come from convenience items sold in the stores. In fact, Jeff Lenard, Vice President of Strategic Industry Initiatives for NACS, says items such as sunglasses, snacks and medicine account for more than 60% of total earnings.
3. Gas pumps aren’t always accurate.
There are over 127,000 convenience stores selling gas in the country, and each state’s Bureau of Weights and Measures is responsible for checking you’re getting what you pay for. Since years can pass between inspections in some states, make sure the screen says $0.00 before you start pumping, so you don’t get charged extra. In many states, you can also see a sticker with the inspection month and year right on the pump. If you suspect it’s been ripped off, you might be getting ripped off, too, according to a former inspector for the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA).
4. Most gas stations are owned independently.
While most people are familiar with the big brands, like Shell, ExxonMobil and BP, only .4% of the gas stations in the country are owned by one of the five major oil companies, according to the NACS. The rest of them are “owned and operated by independent business people who set their own price,” says Elizabeth Hudson, Shell Oil Products U.S. Fuels Category Manager.
5. There’s a science behind gas station locations.
For starters, the size of the lot, traffic and the kind of people that live in the area. In general though, “If there is a 4-way intersection, you want the corner on the right after the light [for a station],” says Lenard. “Drivers don’t want to make left-hand turns, and they want to get past the light before they fuel.”