Gas companies make millions off of your OCD
I spend a lot of time inside of my head thinking about things that I can’t control on my own: Issues like the arbitrary tax codes of the country, what Hollywood directors did wrong and if anyone will ever invent a healthier Twinkie that doesn’t compromise flavor.
Yesterday, I couldn’t get over how much money oil and gas companies probably make from people like me — people with a slight obsessive-compulsive disorder at the pump. If I see that the pump stops short of an even number, or a whole dollar altogether, I keep pumping. Environment be damned. I’ve even spilled a few times in the process from maxing out what my van can hold.
So to kill time, I did the math.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, America consumed 140.43 billion gallons of gasoline in 2015. As it stands right now, the price of a gallon is hovering in the area of $2 to $3 (give or take) and by my own personal guesstimation, I’m likely pumping in an extra 10 to 20 cents each time I need to hit a whole price number. Let’s assume everyone else in this country does too.
The average tank on a vehicle is 12 gallons (larger cars hold around 15 or 16 gallons safely). We could make the argument then, that Americans filled up 10 billion tanks in 2015. Or 27 million tanks a day. If I had pumped all those and added an extra 15 cents to each transaction, fuel companies stand to pull in an extra $4,050,000 every 24 hours just because I can’t leave well enough alone without getting anxiety.
That’s $1.4 billion a year just because I’ve got issues.
This isn’t perfect science. In fact, it’s far from it. Not everyone in America is going to waste an extra fraction of a dollar to feel more comfortable with their purchase, and not every gallon of gas is used in cars or bought through a station’s pump. Likewise, prices fluctuate, pumps stop short of a full fill all the time, and diesel fuel for fleets of shipping trucks is often less expensive and bought in bulk.
Still, even if the companies are making a small fraction of that $1.4 billion, it’s money pumped back into their system for something I alone can control. Oil companies make an estimated $375 million worth of profit each day, a few bucks a year isn’t even on their radar. But it’s on mine, and I like those dollars.
Businesses everywhere bet on the population’s apathy to pad profits. Don’t believe me? Try calling somewhere after something breaks to get in touch with an engineer to walk you through fixing it. Or diligently track down rebate offers. Or actually utilize the warranties that are always ‘guaranteed’ — I do, and it’s a customer service nightmare. Always. People like me is not a customer they want.
Am I going to stop over-pumping gas now that I know the possibilities? Probably not. If anything, it will make me more conscious of it so that I stop the pump before I completely fill the tank at a number my internal workings think is appropriate.
But this is the way I think, and the way I approach products in the U.S. My personal impact is nominal, not enough to even bring concern to behemoth companies. If we all thought this way, however, what a different world it could be.