On Wednesday, Nov. 5, a gas station clerk in Clewiston incorrectly input the price of gasoline at the store’s main control, effectively sending the price of gas back to 1950s levels, when the cost of gas averaged just .29 cents a gallon.
What ensued was a mad rush by residents who learned, through friends and then later on social media, about the pricing snafu, and hurried to fill up the tanks of their own vehicles before the mistake could be corrected.
On Facebook, people bragged about filling their tanks – others saddened for having missed out on the pricing oddity. One man boasted about going back at least seven times with different vehicles.
For store employees, the behavior of a group of customers that took advantage of the pricing mistake was a sobering disappointment. With the station selling gas for .29 cents per gallon, or about 10 percent of the actual cost of $2.89 per gallon, no customer walked in the store to rectify the situation.
“Nobody, nobody [notified us],” lamented Saidul Hoque, a store employee. “Not a single person.”
The three-year employee of the Marathon said the store tries to maintain a policy of honesty with its customers, and normally has an excellent relationship with them, but the actions of those cunning customers last week disappointed them.
“People are not honest, actually,” said Hoque. “We are honest with [our] customers. Customers leave anything, we give it back; money, we call them back, lots of phones, we don’t keep anything.”
In fact, customers were so good about keeping the mistake a secret that it wasn’t until much later store employees would notice there was anything wrong at all. According to Mr. Hoque, the pricing mistake went on for several hours, from 5 p.m. to almost 10 p.m., when the gas had almost run completely out.
Between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. a rush of cars made away with almost all of the store’s fuel, totaling nearly 1,200 gallons worth of gas. The difference in cost and what customers actually paid for the gas saw the store losing out more than $3,100 in sales.
When customers began to pay in cash, and employees reviewed receipts, the mistake was caught and the gas pumps were shut off.
Hoque said the employee responsible for the mix up is still working at the store, albeit feeling badly about the situation.
“He is a very good employee,” explained Hoque. “I tell him everybody can [make a] mistake, I have. Everybody in life have something like this happen, then you learn something.”
According to Hoque, some customers who missed out on the cheap gas at his station, drove across town to the second Marathon location in Clewiston and demanded that the store sell gas at .29 cents a gallon too.