10/11/05 — Gas pump drama: Couple digs in against pressure

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Gas pump drama: Couple digs in against pressure

State Attorney General Roy Cooper might have a tough case to win. But the public at large probably is fully on his side — and that of a little convenience market service station in Durham.

Steve Grover and his wife were closing their A&P Mini Mart near Durham and about to leave for Wednesday night prayer meeting. They were interrupted by two men representing the company that supplies them with gasoline and the three tanks on their premises.

The Grovers had been concerned over the toll high gas prices were taking on their customers’ ability to make ends meet. Consequently, they managed to keep their gas prices below others posted in the area.

They also posted “margin sheets” showing how much they made per gallon on gas. In September, it came to 2.2 cents per gallon for them and the same for their distributor.

Two days after the Grovers’ tanks had been filled, they were told to increase prices by 40 cents per gallon.

They refused. And, according to Grover, they were advised, “Y’all ought to get with the program.”

When they returned to open their store the next day, they found their pumps had been padlocked.

Attorney General Cooper got in the act. He brought suit against the oil companies involved “and any unknown conspirators.”

The immediate result was that the locks were removed from the gas tanks at Steve and Denise Grover’s convenience store.

Cooper admits his case against the oil companies will not be easy. And perhaps the entire episode is an exercise in futility triggered by public frustration and outrage over skyrocketing fuel prices.

But it probably makes a lot of folks feel better. And for many, Steve and Denise Grover are real heroes.

Published in Editorials on October 11, 2005 12:20 PM