Every spring, variations of the same email start to pop into inboxes promising that if the recipient simply forwards it to their friends and relatives and they do the same...then gas prices will magically go down. Presto Change-O! Simply based on the number of these that I get from friends, colleauges and strangers, gas prices should be at about 4 cents a litre by now. Maybe it didn't work because I broke the chain and didn't forward it! Or maybe it's for other reasons...
You know the email. It starts by proclaiming "This is not the 'don't buy' gas for one day" but it will show you how we can get gas back down to..." Bit of an odd start. But thank goodness it's not the 'don't buy gas' email because we all know that was a complete disaster.
Then for credibility, it says it's sent by a retired Executive from a large soft drink maker who got it from a friend who is a retired engineer. And they apparently they got it from some guy named Phillip Hollsworth. Sounds like an important man...who hangs around with retired executives and engineers and devises email chain letter schemes. Have they not heard of golf? And why are they having some anonymous guy write their manifesto and distribute it for them. Shouldn't they be standing up to take the credit for their brilliant scheme? Perhaps it's modesty. Or perhaps they simply don't exist.
The basic premise is that if everybody on the email chain decides to not fill up at one or two of the oil companies identified in the email, then it will force the price down due to lost business.
Versions of this email have popped up around the world in various forms for at least 7 years now. The investigators at Snopes.com, who analyze 'Urban Legends', have done a good job documenting the history of it. Not surprisingly, they declare it to be false.
For Canadians, we get a crude hand-me-down rewrite of the American version. Gallons changed out for litres, etc. But for some reason, the math never changes.
"I am sending this note to 30 people. If each of us send it to at least ten more...and those 300 send it to at least 10 more...and so on (paragraph shortened)...you guessed it...THREE HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE!!!"
It's been a while since I checked the census, but 300 million Canadians seems a little high. Like 10 times too high. But wait! The anonymous author who was hired by the Triumvirate of Important Retired Persons (TIRP) explains:
"If you don't understand how we can reach 300 million...you just aren't a mathematician. But I am...so trust me on this one!"
Well, ok then. If you say so mystery mathemetician writer person who loves exclamation points!!!!!
So sarcasm aside, would something like this work? I'm guessing you might find my answer biased. Thankfully Michael Ervin, who is one of the foremost quoted experts on the oil and gas business in Canada, was asked this very question during an online Globe & Mail forum today. His full answer is here. Basically he says no, or even worse, it could cause the opposite reaction. And then he adds this interesting tidbit.
of the many major branded stations in Canada only about half are "company controlled" by the majors. The remainder are either "independent branded" outlets, or branded outlets of various third party marketers. So, as you boycott those major-branded outlets, you are causing "collateral damage" (to use a military term) to a large number of small businesses who simply buy gasoline from a major supplier and sell it at a modest mark-up. You're not hurting the supplier (who, as I've said, would still be selling just as many litres at wholesale), you're hurting the innocent local gas station operator.
Now don't get me wrong. I don't like seeing people so frustrated by gas prices that they cling to anonymous emails in hopes that maybe they will magically bring relief. We've tried to put helpful fuel efficieny tips and gas price explanations on this blog to help consumers manage their consumption and get answers. I must warn you though - none of it is as exciting as the Triumvirate of Important Retired Persons and their mystery mathemetician writer friend. Maybe when I retire....
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