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Petrol Prices Over The Phone – “Not Our Policy”, Coles Express

By 23 September 2008 28

After reading the news today about the huge jump in global oil prices, I thought I’d call a couple of local petrol stations to inquire what the current price of fuel is to decide which station I’d drop past on the way home from work.  Why would I go to the effort you ask, other than the fact that I am a tightwad when it comes to forking over cash to these monopolizing, unethical bastards?  It’s because I have seen, last week being the most recent example, when fuel was 10 cents cheaper depending which station I dropped past on the way home.

I have called stations before, and the operators have always been willng to assist.  After calling today, I was shocked to hear from Coles “sorry mate, I can’t tell you over the phone”.  “Why not” I asked.  “It’s company policy mate”.  “But I’ve never had any issues doing this in the past, when did this policy come in”.  “Sorry, I can’t tell you that – bye”.

I was shocked, so I called another Coles Express nearby – same answer.  So not only are these petrol companies ripping us off by increasing fuel prices within hours of a raise in oil prices, and then taking weeks to hand down lower fuel prices when oil prices drop – they are removing the ability for us to call up and get a price which is plastered on a board outside their station.  It this anti-consumer or competition or what?!

I know I’m always carrying on about petrol prices and ethics, but can you imagine calling Woolworths and asking for the price of a 1kg tin of Milo (so you can figure out if you have enough poo change lying around to walk down and by one) and being told “sorry, not company policy”?  This prompts me to bring up the suggestion again for RA, and a regular link where we can make note of petrol prices during each day (for those who can be bothered), and updating the prices on RA, so we as consumers, can regain a little control and have a educated choice of where we get our fuel, and pay what price.  If the “Pertrol Commissioner” can do his waste of taxpayers money job – perhaps we need to do something about it.

[ED - nice suggestion and we'll put it on our list, but as a small shop we're not exactly short of places we can be directing out efforts.]

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28 Responses to Petrol Prices Over The Phone – “Not Our Policy”, Coles Express
#1
Zapruda10:25 am, 23 Sep 08

Saw this on News.com havent read entire article yet……

http://www.google.com.au/petrol/

#2
captainwhorebags10:30 am, 23 Sep 08

The policy probably has nothing to do with gouging you and more to do with making sure that their attendants are serving the customers, watching the pumps, stocking the shelves etc, instead of answering the phone every 2 minutes because someone wants to know what the price is.

#3
seanneko10:32 am, 23 Sep 08

To be fair, and I’m by no means siding with the oil companies/petrol stations here, it’s probably not price gouging.

I imagine that some people would ring up and be told “it’s 150.9c”, but then by the time they arrive it’s gone up to 154.9. Argument and threats of legal action ensue.

#4
Albigeois10:33 am, 23 Sep 08

Some of the servos used to try to pull that when I lived in Melbourne. I used to get around it by just calling the shop next door/across the street and asking them to look out the window!

Worked a treat :-D

#5
Aurelius10:37 am, 23 Sep 08

SeanNeko, “Price changed”. No legal minefield.

#6
tylersmayhem10:51 am, 23 Sep 08

Thx Zapruda – and that utility looks good in theory, but when I enter my postcode I get one result: $1.469: Coles Express – 23 Sep at 5:55AM corner Camden Valley Way and Graham Hill Road Narellan 2567. :(

#7
S4anta11:00 am, 23 Sep 08

May I add that something similar to this Fueal watch WA is about to pushed out country wide. Hang ten.

#8
Holden Caulfield11:24 am, 23 Sep 08

Maybe we should get the Civic beggars to send off a few bob to tylers to cover the extra $5 for his/her fuel bill. Oh, better add in an extra $5 to cover the all phone calls as well.

Look, I think fuel companies suck the big one too. But are they any worse than the pharmaceutical companies? Are they any worse than pretty much any retail store? Indeed, are they any worse than our own governments?

I just think there’s a lot of hype over fuel pricing. I agree 10¢ is quite a difference between “competing” service stations, but hey, that’s $5 over a 50 litre fill. Multiply that by 52 weeks and we’re talking $260 spread over the course of the year. Hardly the end of the world is it? Maybe tylers does 1000km a week or something, I don’t know, but for the average 16,000kms-a-year-motorist I reckon we just need to HTFU and enjoy being able to buy petrol at the drop of a hat while we still can.

#9
johnboy11:26 am, 23 Sep 08

If all the prices were the same you’d be screaming about price fixing.

#10
harvyk111:36 am, 23 Sep 08

A few months ago coles express was outed by the fuel commissioner as the worst for price gouging. I expect that their company policy is a direct result of that (as I expect the fuel commission staff simply called up servos rather than drive around)

#11
Thumper11:56 am, 23 Sep 08

747 Kevin gave you Petrolwatch.

Be grateful you unwashed swine ;)

#12
tylersmayhem12:02 pm, 23 Sep 08

@Holden Caulfield: I do this on principal mate – not over $5 per week (in fact it’s a hell of a lot less than that considering I ride a pushy most of the time and average about 200k’s a week). Perhaps if more people acted on principal rather than mindless consumerism the situation would be different.

@JB: I did not suggest for a second that price fixing is the answer. I suggest for consumers to buy a product from the most competitive outlet – petrol included. I’m pretty sure it would show that it encourages competition, rather than works against it. Look t the banks for instance. A the interest rate drops, and there is a battle of the banks to quickly bring their rates down, and to what degree in order to stay competitive. Kinda the same theory I’m basing this on.

Further to this, my sister arrived back from France yesterday after spending extended time over there with family. Relatives could not believe the way our fuel prices fluctuate over here. They have a price in Euro’s per litre ove, and it barely changes regardless of what happens to global Oil prices. They honestly were shocked.

#13
tylersmayhem12:04 pm, 23 Sep 08

200k’s a week in the car I should say – not on the pushy.

#14
bluh12:15 pm, 23 Sep 08

SeanNeko has it right.

I was a console biscuit at a servo for a year and a half. This was the reason cited by management. Not sure if there was anything more sinister behind it, but it made life easier behind the counter.

#15
ifan12:27 pm, 23 Sep 08
#16
Mr Waffle12:38 pm, 23 Sep 08

I never thought too much of price differences until I worked last weekend… on Saturday, Shell in Fyshwick near Canberra avenue had regular unlimited for 170c. On Sunday it was 148c…

#17
tylersmayhem1:37 pm, 23 Sep 08

on Saturday, Shell in Fyshwick near Canberra avenue had regular unlimited for 170c. On Sunday it was 148c…

Further to Holden’s comments about saving $5 a week, and based on your observation, the $5 is actually more like $15 a week more expensive (based on a 70 litre fill). Call me a tight wad, or whatever you want really, but $15 a week is what it is. For some families that’s an extra meal. Or if you times it over a year (admittedly not that this is particularly likely to happen every week) you’re talking about $780 over the year. You don’t want that extra $780 per year Holden?!

#18
Gungahlin Al3:02 pm, 23 Sep 08

“ED – nice suggestion and we’ll put it on our list, but as a small shop we’re not exactly short of places we can be directing out efforts.”

The Google Petrol price tracker looks like an interesting tool. But according to the FAQs the data is not yet collected in Canberra…

#19
Davo1113:19 pm, 23 Sep 08

It’s probably policy not to state the prices over the phone because they change often, and people get annoyed when they come in (multiple hours later) and complain about the fact the prices are different. The bad wrap from not telling people the price over the phone is a lot less that having whining customers that reckon they’ve been ‘quoted’ a petrol price from 6 hours ago.

#20
vg3:35 pm, 23 Sep 08

captainwhorebags said :

The policy probably has nothing to do with gouging you and more to do with making sure that their attendants are serving the customers, watching the pumps, stocking the shelves etc, instead of answering the phone every 2 minutes because someone wants to know what the price is.

BS. If that was the case they wouldn’t answer the phone full stop. It takes a whole 0.3 of a second to tell someone the price.

If they didn’t want staff to answer the phone they would either:
a) tell them not to; or
b) not have a phone

#21
Davo1114:02 pm, 23 Sep 08

They must have a phone for safety/security reasons.

#22
vg4:28 pm, 23 Sep 08

Well then its not that hard to answer it and give the price with a caveat that it may change

#23
tylersmayhem4:31 pm, 23 Sep 08

All I’d be asking for is a price “at the time”. What I found most uncool this morning was when asked why they don’t quote prices over the phone, I was told “I cannot tell you that”.

If it was because prices might fluctuate, no worries – I understand. If it’s because you need to be paying 100% attention to customers and your browsers rather that talking to a cheap-skate like me, cool. Don’t be so f**king evasive and people like me won’t immediately refer to recent happening where outlets have been caught monopolizing and doing the wrong thing by customers.

…or, be competitive and not secretive and just quote your prices over the phone so those who can be bothered to try and encourage a little competition, which the rest of you stand to benefit from, can make an informed choice.

#24
Holden Caulfield4:55 pm, 23 Sep 08

tylersmayhem said :

on Saturday, Shell in Fyshwick near Canberra avenue had regular unlimited for 170c. On Sunday it was 148c…

Further to Holden’s comments about saving $5 a week, and based on your observation, the $5 is actually more like $15 a week more expensive (based on a 70 litre fill). Call me a tight wad, or whatever you want really, but $15 a week is what it is. For some families that’s an extra meal. Or if you times it over a year (admittedly not that this is particularly likely to happen every week) you’re talking about $780 over the year. You don’t want that extra $780 per year Holden?!

Lies, lies and damned statistics. We can all skew figures to suit an argument. As you said that 22¢ differential is never going to remain consistent over a 12 month period. Back to your own situation, if you’re only ever doing 200km a week then the magic $780 you came up with is cut rather dramatically. Unless you drive a car that uses 70 litres of fuel to travel 200kms. I didn’t think so.

I bought a new telly the other day and “saved” about $700 off the manufacturer’s published RRP. Swings and roundabouts. I’m guessing you wouldn’t send the saving back to the manufacturer either.

Like I said, I agree with you, the petrol companies are swines. But for the sake of your own health, just let it go, they’re bigger, nastier and more powerful than anything you could ever muster up in protest.

I used to get all fired up about fuel pricing too, but then I did the simple arithmetic and figured the angst I was causing myself wasn’t worth the few bucks it was costing me. Sure, prices have risen dramatically over the last few years, and if I was driving a) a more thirsty car or b) more kilometres it would have greater impact on my personal circumstances. Remember, though, in world terms we’re still paying bugger all for petrol. Moreover, given we’ve supposedly reached peak oil, we’re still able to buy fuel whenever we want without any restriction. Enjoy it while we can.

#25
Holden Caulfield5:01 pm, 23 Sep 08

Oh, I never buy Shell fuel either (can’t remember why, I just don’t). Maybe you will now join me on that front. ;)

#26
bd848:26 pm, 23 Sep 08

The reason is pretty simple and already stated..
As for the supermarket example, imagine if every pleb rang up their local supermarket wanting to know the exact price of the particular grocery they wanted to purchase. You wouldn’t have a right to complain while waiting in the checkout line, the poor bloke trudging the aisles to find the price of your $2 product would be the one who could have served you. Easy way to get around being short of money is make sure you take a note of a value greater than the estimated value of the product you wish to buy, maybe take 2 just in case!

#27
Sleaz27410:01 pm, 23 Sep 08

Slightly off topic but has anyone considered switching over to the higher octane or premium fuels as the price rises as the difference between the normal petrol and premium seems to stay somewhat constant therefore the more you pay the less difference there really is and if the performance is that much better (which I’m not sure about either) then you’d actually be better off. By a whopping 12c every fill up….if you’re lucky.

Can someone follow me on the logic in that? And are the premium quality fuels significantly better…?

#28
rosie_bubz11:35 am, 26 Sep 08

tiny bit of topic, but i fill up in queabeyan, and im sure most of u would know there are 2 bp stations within queanbeyan, located quite close to each other. i filed up at one, and then drove past the 2nd one which was on the way to where i was going. I was so shocked that the 2nd bp was 12/13 cents cheaper!! what a rip

i usually fill up at mobile becaue they aways seem to have the lowest price of normal unleaded

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