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finding nearby cheap gasoline with cell phone service

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Old 05-20-2006, 12:34 PM
HankL
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Default finding nearby cheap gasoline with cell phone service

Pumped-Up Comparison Shopping
Search for Cheap Gas Increases Web Traffic, Inspires New Services

By Yuki Noguchi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 20, 2006; D01

Anew service from Verizon Wireless lets customers use cellphones to search for the cheapest, closest gas stations. To get FuelFinder, subscribers have to pay $1.99 a month, in addition to a $5 monthly Web access fee.

But what's a few bucks, if you can save a few cents?

"It saves people from having to drive for miles to look for cheap gas," Verizon Wireless spokesman John Johnson said.

Sharing information on how to deal with gasoline prices has driven huge amounts of traffic on Web sites in recent weeks, as drivers fume, exchange tips on where to buy gas and increase fuel efficiency and even gather online to pray for lower gas prices.

Last month, gas-price-tracking Web sites posted some of highest growth in traffic on the Internet, according to ComScore Media Metrix. The most popular, Gasbuddy.com, compiles user-reported prices at stations around the country, and got 2.3 million visitors in April, up from 755,000 in March. The Energy Department's site, Fueleconomy.com, saw a 172 percent increase the same month.

Gasbuddy.com now gets from 1 million to 1.5 million visitors a day, and hosts forums on which 16 million messages have been posted, said Jason Toews, a co-founder of the organization, based in Brooklyn Park, Minn..

There, in addition to kvetching about cost, people hold forth about alternative fuels, suggest taking heavy loads out of the car to save gas and advocate driving slower on the highway to get better gas mileage.

"I've noticed people are driving slower," said Toews, who said it's possible to increase the efficiency of a car by 20 percent by going 55 mph instead of 75.

Other sites -- such as GasPriceWatch.com, Gaswatch, GasPriceAlert, and the Utility Consumers' Action Network's Gasoline Price Tracking Service -- also help consumers comparison shop, sometimes by compiling data from customers themselves who report to the site. FuelFinder compiles data reported by gas stations and credit card companies and the service allows subscribers to choose between unleaded, premium mid-grade or diesel prices.

Search engines also provide an increasingly popular way to find fuel-related information. Internet searches for the term "ethanol" increased 212 percent from April to May, according to another research company, Hitwise. Searches for "biodiesel" increased 100 percent during the same period.

During the past month, Yahoo Inc. said the number searches on its site for gas prices and hybrids increased 250 percent, peaking in the last week of April, coinciding with the peaking of gas prices and Earth Day on April 22.

On the Internet overall, Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. -- two Japanese automakers that make popular models of hybrid cars -- saw a boost in Web site visitors in April, according to ComScore, with traffic on those pages up 49 percent and 33 percent, respectively, over the previous month.

Bloggers are getting a lot of mileage out of the topic, as well, using social networking techniques to seek out cheaper gas.

"I just [paid] $47 to fill up my little Hyundai. This is nuts," a MySpace.com blogger in Massachusetts, who called himself Troy aka Cockroach, wrote earlier this week. "So, I managed to find it for $2.99 . . . up at the Hess. Anyone know any cheaper spots around [here]? I heard S. Main st. Hess is even cheaper."

Some are aiming higher than fellow Web surfers for help. On Wednesday, online worship center Praylive.com hosted a 3,295-participant group prayer for lower gas prices.

"It affects all of us, we all need gas," said Wenda Royster, founder of Baltimore-based Pray Live, who said one woman she spoke to is selling her own blood to buy gas. Royster wants to bring people together to carpool and to affirm the power of prayers, she said. "When we prayed in DC [on April 27], gas prices came down four or five cents."

Renee, a MySpace blogger from Delaware, Ohio, offered up MSN's gas-tracking Web site address on her site. "Be a good neighbor and pass this along," she wrote.

Verizon hopes to cut through such informal efforts with FuelFinder, the cellphone service, which allows users to type in a Zip code or town name to pull up a map and a short list of nearby stations, starting with the cheapest. The site comes with links for turn-by-turn directions to each station.

FuelFinder's database has 1,397 stations in the Washington area. A search yesterday for the cheapest location in downtown Washington showed a Hess Station on 1739 New Jersey Ave. NW selling at a reported $3.06 per gallon of unleaded gas. According to FuelFinder, that is 16 cents more than the national average of $2.90, but 15 cents less than the Amoco Station at 45 Florida Ave. NE, about two-thirds of a mile away.

FuelFinder's overall database is compiled by MobileGates Corp., and includes prices from more than 110,000 service stations, but does not include discount shopping clubs, such as Costco or Sam's Club.

In rare cases, savings on gas can total 30 cents to 40 cents per gallon in some cities, but the bulk of stations run at around the same price, which means you can win the hunt for cheap gas, but lose money overall by paying for finder services or driving out of your way, said consumer-behavior expert Terry Childers, a professor at the University of Kentucky. "But sometimes the emphasis is on rewards, and you forget about the cost."
 
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Old 05-20-2006, 09:07 PM
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Default RE: finding nearby cheap gasoline with cell phone service

"Anew service from Verizon Wireless lets customers use cellphones to search for the cheapest, closest gas stations. To get FuelFinder, subscribers have to pay $1.99 a month, in addition to a $5 monthly Web access fee. "

It's funny. The gas companies make like 6 cents for each gallon of gas they sell, and they are cheating us from our money (remember, they have to buy the gas at record prices to sell it to us, it's not like they are getting it for $20/barrel like they were a few years ago [when prices were like $1.00]. Plus, the percent of profit the oil companies make are not near as high as some types of corporations, their yearly profits are just higher because most people fill up with at least 15+ gallons of gas each week; and I don't see people comsuming that equivalnt in any other commodity). Now, Verizon tries to take advantage of those searching for lower prices, and, of course, no one will say anything. **FYI, the websites listed above, I know some (if not all) of them are free. OMG, you might not get them on your cell phone, though**
Another thing: to bring that product to us, they have huge budgets for research and such. A refinery (which, thanks to our good ol' government, hasn't been a new one built since the 70's, and it's hard for them to expand the ones they have) costs billions of dollars to build. Plus, the man power and equipment needed to get the oil from in the ground to in your car is amazing. Plus, when they find possible new site, it can take lots of time and lots of money to research the area (to make sure there is actually enough oil there) and bring in the equipment to get it up.
*Disclaimer: I do own a truck. However, the amount that I drive it does not really effect my budget too much with how the prices of gas have went up.*
It amazes me that people that drive trucks and SUV's, and large cars, that, for the most part, don't get awesome mileage (of course, people getting 20MPG with the new MDS HEMI is nice to see), complain about how much gas costs. Maybe they should have thought about that before buying their vehicle.
What really I don't get, is the high-middle class to upper class, that live in their $300K+ houses, drive near $60K Navigators or Escalades, and say anything about how gas prices effect them.
To both types of people: shut the f&*k up. Either get a more fuel efficent vehicle, or deal with it like the rest of us are.
As for looking for cheap gas: eh, not for me. I, and my family, have always has problems with "discount" chains. (I haven't seen any here in Little Rock, but in Norhtern Illinois, they have Clarks and Road Rangers) Yes, you save 1-2 pennies per gallon, but, the gas tends to run straight threw the tank. I'll be more than happy to pay 3cents more per gallon and get a quality gasoline.
</rant>
 
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