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tions to the independents. The major oil companies, at that time, were pumping a little bit more than the independents. In 1974, the independents are now working on 1972 allocations which is allowing them a little bit more gas than the majors, but they also have a higher price, so your so-called price shopper, that always went to the independents, is now going to the major brand stations, because he will get up at 7 o'clock in the morning and sit in line to save a nickel, or 7 cents a gallon, where your nonprice shopper that always traded with you before, gets up at his normal time and tries to find gas at a normal time, and he has a hard time.
Our complete business outlook is just completely reversed-our normal customer is now forced into going into the independents due to his buying habits. So that under the new regulations, of course, where you have to serve everybody equal, I think that most service station dealers in this State were trying to treat everybody fairly with the idea that if they had a regular customer, they were going to take care of him because that is the man who has put the bread and butter on his table.
We have not had any real serious incidents in this State as far as people running out of gas or any fatalities due to it. Our biggest problems are long lines. Where we put out signs "out of gas” when we are really out of gas, this is one of the things that we are trying to eliminate.
We would like to work closer with the Government in this State so that before they come up with any decisions, or before they try to come up with anything, they wouldn't panic. As the Governor suggested, be closely knitted, and work these problems out. I am sure they can be worked out. Nixon came out with the statement. "Well, let's not drive anymore on Sundays”, this doesn't affect all areas. We have resort areas. We are going to have big problems here on the Cape, and up in the Pittsfield area, we had them this winter.
Every area has a different outlook and something different has to be worked out in each place, but if somebody makes one decision for the whole State or for all the States every place has a different circumstance, so the communication is bad. We discussed this once before, when Simon gave us the increase back in January-it was 8 days before anybody
could legally say you can take the 1 cent increase, so I think that if the communications were tightened up a little closer, and I realize that there are other problems that we have, but I think this one is a major problem that we have right now and before it gets any worse, if we had better communications and we had some people involved, other than elected officials, somebody that was in the business that knew the problems, I think it would help out quite a bit.
Senator KENNEDY. How is the allocation formula actually working for you—do you think that you are getting the amount of gasoline that you are entitled to?
Mr. MURPHY. Well, we have a problem-when an oil company had their own outlet and in this State, we have had a half a dozen of them built within the last year or year and a half, you can drive into most of their outlets and never run out of gas. You can get all the gas you want at any time.
Now there are numerous stations closed in this State, and as far as we are concerned, we haven't seen any one of our members or any nonmember get any more allocations.
Senator KENNEDY. Can your association do anything about that. For example, Phillips Petroleum, has closed down a lot of its stations. Have you been able to find out whether you can get to their allocations and distribute that gasoline among your stations.
Mr. MURPHY. They ignore us, Senator. In other words, you call in and try to find out and they just put you off and put you off. The gas has been turned over to the oil companies to distribute. Now there is a large amount involved and it is going to be a little hard for them to push it off where they want it, so that we should get a fair distribution from this. But whether or not it will happen, we don't know, because to get into these oil companies and find out what they are doing with it is impossible.
We get no cooperation at all on it.
Senator KENNEDY. How do you think the pricing system has worked? Has it been an equitable pricing system—in Massachusetts as compared to, say, Louisiana or Georgia?
Mr. MURPHY. Well, I think that you will find that due to our own ignorance in the service station business, due to price wars and things in the past, that we have put ourselves into a bad position, and now, of course, we are in a pinch where we don't have the other income to offset it. But on pricing—we are approximately 6 cents a gallon, throughout the State, in profitwise, if you were to take an overall picture, where some States are at 10 or 11 cents.
Senator KENNEDY. Now let's hear from Mr. Benson.
STATEMENT OF SIDNEY BENSON, GASOLINE STATION OPERATOR,
Mr. Benson. Senator Kennedy, I operate a small service station in Roxbury, and I have a very small allocation. My type of business was built as a commercial business. Right now, my business is 60 percent commercial and 40 percent the general public.
I feel that the commercial business has kept me in bread and butter all these years and I try to take care of my commercial accounts. The general public, because of my small allocation, can wipe me out in 1 hour's time and I would have to close the station. I have to put the red flag up indicating “no gas". I have emergency vehicles that work all night, security cars, and alarm trucks out fixing burglar alarms, and working with the police. So, between 5 and 6 at night, I open up again for commercial vehicles and I try to take care of my own accounts, plus whatever commercial vehicles come in at that time.
Senator KENNEDY. Do people get frustrated when you have got the red flag up and then they see vehicles coming in and getting gasoline? Do they take it out on you?
Mr. Benson. Well, at no time do we pump any gas with the red flag out.
I don't take the red flag down until 5 o'clock at night. From 10:30 in the morning until 5 o'clock at night, that red flag is out there, and we do not pump a single gallon of gasoline.
Senator KENNEDY. All right now after 5:30?
Mr. Benson. After 5:30, we will have the yellow flag up and if we have any gas left for the general public, we will put the green flag up and we will sell our allocations for the day.
Senator KENNEDY. What sort of frustrations have been expressed by the general public when they come in?
Mr. BENSON. Very frustrating.
Mr. Benson. Well, I will give an example. Just Thursday of this week, I had a woman come in-walked in to the station and she said, “What time do you close?” I said, “6 o'clock at night, maʼm", and just by talking to her, I could tell she was from a different State. I couldn't catch the accent and a little later on, I found out that she was from New York. She said that she had just walked from the Children's Inn down to my station—and I am in a very bad section of Roxbury. She was looking for a gas station. She passed at least a dozen stations and none of them were open for gasoline. At that time, I was flying the yellow flag for commercial vehicles and she asked if she could come back here in about 20 minutes or a half hour. I said, “You come back," knowing the section and the Children's Inn, I knew that anybody staying at the Children's Inn is there for a special reason with somebody in the hospital. While she pulled in to the station-she had a 1972 Cadillac-I walked out and I asked her if she uses regular or high test, and just by asking her that, she burst out crying. I said to her, “Is everything al right at the hospital ?” She said, “Yes, God bless you. My husband just underwent heart surgery. I am taking him home to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., today, and I haven't got a drop of gasoline to get back home.”
Now even under the yellow flag, I felt it was an emergency and I gave her 22.8 gallons of gasoline that I took away from the general public.
I had a doctor come in about 3 or 4 weeks ago, on a Saturday, “Where can I buy some gasoline?" He had to go to the Marboro Hospital. I asked for identification, he showed me he was a doctorI gave him a tankful of gas. He said: “You wouldn't believe it but last night I got a call from the Marlboro Hospital and I was in Milton. I had an emergency operation to go to and I didn't have enough gas to get back there and there was nothing open. They had to send a police cruiser out to pick me up and take me home.”
Senator KENNEDY. Are these fairly typical stories, based on your observations with other station attendants?
Mr. Benson. Well, I would say they are. I would say they are. I feel that emergency vehicles—a doctor or a nurse-should have the gasoline to be able to get to work, to do their job when they have to. They shouldn't have to stand in line.
Senator KENNEDY. What about your experience, Mr. McCarthy?
STATEMENT OF ROBERT MCCARTHY, GASOLINE STATION
OPERATOR, NEWTON, MASS.
Mr. McCarthy. Harold Murphy summed it up pretty well, but I think it is time somebody spoke up for the gas station operator himself. By and large, I think most of us in the Commonwealth have done a pretty good job.
There have been some isolated cases where somebody has been locked up as a result of an incident in a station--a customer, not the owner. There has been a little hoopla here and there about everything, but honestly, most of us believe there isn't enough gasoline in this State to get people to work, legitimately, to work.
All of a sudden, we are supposed to take care of out-of-staters that come into this State. Now whether they are in to visit their inlaws or what they are here for, we have no idea, but we had to take care of them. There is not enough gasoline in this State to take people to work. Now people—if they are lucky enough on a Friday to get a full tank of gasoline, they may drive to Stowe, Vt., have a ball, skiing, whatever they want to do and they are guaranteed by Vermont ski area operators a full tank to get home on.
Now, we are reasonable men. If we can't get enough gasoline to get most of these people to work, or to meet a real need how are we supposed to believe that there is a gas shortage at all when people can go to New York for a week, during school vacation, have a ball for themselves, take the car, meanwhile some poor fellow here in Newton or Worcester or Springfield needs a tank of gas to complete his business in Boston and he can't get it.
There is something definitely wrong here somewhere. Something is definitely wrong and I honestly believe, and I believe Mr. Murphy and the rest of the gentlemen in this State, will tell you the same thingthere isn't enough gasoline for the State's needs.
Some companies in this State are allowing their dealers 90 percent of their 1972 sales. Other companies are sticking strictly to 78 percent. This is not right either. If an Exxon dealer has to stick to 78 percent of his February allocation, a Shell dealer, a Mobil dealer, I don't care what-I am not mentioning names—should get 78 percent.
There are stations in Newton, major brands that can pump 6 hours a day. They can fill everybody up. There are other stations that can pump 21/2 to 3 hours a day, and they have to shut down for the rest of the day.
Senator KENNEDY. Now why is that, do you think?
Mr. McCARTHY. Well, they are going off of 1972 allocations. Now if my memory serves me correctly, in 1972 route 128 took a nosedive. Engineers and scientists lost their jobs, in the electronic outfits out there. So in some areas, 1972 was a very bad year. We had approximately a 20 percent drop in business in the early months of 1972, but that's our base period. If you pumped 40,000 gallons of gas in 1972, you are only getting 26,000 to pump now for the month. That is not fair, when other dealers have got 90 percent. This whole thing is not set up right. There is something lacking. There is not enough gasoline in this State to get the people to work, let alone, joy riding. Sunday openings? There isn't any gas for Sunday openings.
To put a little humor in this, I have lines three blocks long every morning. I am open at 7 o'clock. One Saturday morning here a couple of weeks
ago, a fellow came running up and he said, “I am the last car in line. My wife is going to have a baby.” Well, we have heard all sorts of things. We have heard, “My gas gage doesn't read right”—there are too many of them to repeat, but anyhow
I said, “Are you kidding me?" He said, "No." I said "Well, come on up to the front of the line, and sure enough, she was having a baby. We gave him $2 worth of gas to get him to the Newton-Wellesley Hospital and I wished him luck, and on he went.
There is one other thing that I would like to say that is a little bit out of line. I wish to thank Cannel 5 one hundred percent, for all the dealers in the Newton area, and I am sure the rest of the area, for fair reporting on our gasoline situation. The other channels—they don't give the true picture, but Channel 5 has been very fair to our wants and needs. Thank you. That is all I have to say.
Senator KENNEDY. Let me ask you, as a service station owner, do you favor rationing?
Mr. MCCARTHY. Absolutely, sir, absolutely, with all the frustrations, yes.
Senator KENNEDY. Mr. Murphy?
Mr. MURPHY. I don't think that the public would get any more gas. I think it might hurt them a little bit. If we could be sure black marketing and phoney stamps wouldn't come in, I think it would be a great idea.
Senator KENNEDY. What about you, Mr. Brewster?
Mr. BREWSTER. As far as our association, Senator Kennedy, it is on record as opposing rationing except as a very last resort. We feel that, particularly in gasoline, the allocation program is too new to go to ationing because it hasn't worked in the first 2 weeks.
Senator KENNEDY. I would be interested in any particular information that any of you have, on whether the supply which is allocated to the State is actually getting to the service stations, this is something, I know, that the panel that was up here, the Federal panel, was interested in. What can you tell us of your own personal knowledge !
Are the stations actually getting their allocations? Or are you getting one figure in terms of allocation, and receiving quite a different figure?
Mr. MURPHY. Do you mean the new allocation, what they just gave us, or we had before?
Senator KENNEDY. No, the one that you had before.
Mr. MURPHY. We haven't had too many problems. I have run into a problem up in the Greenfield area. I got a call yesterday where a distributor up there is not getting his gasoline from his suppliers, so he cannot supply his stations.
We have had some calls about slow deliveries and about failure to deliver when they should deliver. But most stations, when they are given an allocation, so far, have actually been getting it.
The other day was the first instance I ran into, where two stations were not receiving their allocation. Their supplier didn't have the gas to give them, and we are going to do some research on it to find out why.
Senator KENNEDY. We have heard a great deal about the financial pressures that the independent service stations are under. Mr. McCarthy, Mr. Benson? How are service station owners able to make a living today?
Mr. Benson. The only way that we can make a living today is between 10:30 and 5:00 o'clock when we don't have these people bothering us, looking for gasoline, then we can actually start doing our repair work that we have to line
in advance. I still have the same number of help in my operation that I had when this energy crisis started. I am only saving 14 hours a week, by closing earlier, 2 hours at night, and half a day on Saturday_4 hours. Other than that, my station is open from 7 in the morning to 6 at night and I still have the same number of employees.
Senator KENNEDY. Mr. McCarthy?