Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why Do We Allow Gas Companies To Get Away With This?

I wonder if the latest news from the Middle East makes Oil Company Executives smile. I'm sure they are lighting up fresh Cuban cigars with $100 bills as they watch CNN and Fox News. They must be happy as they look to increase the prices of gasoline at the pump. What amazes me is that we, that is the public, allow them to get away with this.

It is a fact that maybe 2% of US oil comes from Libya but that little fact doesn't stop them from raising prices by 10% so far. It amazes me that the expensive gas moves from the oil well to the gas pump in lightning speed yet, when we're told that gas prices are coming down, the speed of the pipeline comes to a crawl. Again, as the general public accepts this as the norm. The government will rattle a few cages as politicians hrmph it up once the public cries out. So, the oil companies ease off he prices, by a touch and everyone goes back to normal until the next excuse comes around why prices are rising again. You know, if it's not unrest in some part of the world, the Summer is either too hot or the Winter is too cold or too many people are driving or just because it's Monday.

Sinclair Gas Station Metal SignThen there is the matter of 9/10 of a cent. With prices reaching $5 a gallon, why do we permit the gas stations to continue this practice of pricing gas to the 10th of a cent? And how often do you ever see that 10th of a cent be any less than 9/10's? I could understand it in the days when gas was pennies a gallon and you could actually buy something for just a penny. But, that was a long time ago. We just wink and accept this practice. People will look at the price on the sign reading $4.99 9/10 and give a sigh of relief that gas hasn't hit $5 yet. Who are they kidding? Let's get the legislation under way to stop this practice!

My last rant about gas stations is the recent return of separate prices for Cash and Credit. Personally, I will avoid any station wanting to charge me more to use my credit card. What I find strange is that in New York State, this practice is already outlawed. Yet, it is never enforced. It is illegal to charge more to a customer who wishes to charge. Although, it is permitted to provide a discount for cash. The stations contend that is what they are doing. Then my question is, why do they advertise the cash price on their big signs? And why does their cash price match the prevailing price for Cash or Credit? If they wish to claim they are providing a discount for cash, then advertise the higher price so unsuspecting motorists don't get suckered in from the road.

In the 1970's New York State passed the law that allowed self-serve pumps. The reasoning they gave was that would help to keep the price of gasoline down. Less manpower needed to run the pumps, less cost for the station owner and the savings would be passed on to the consumer. I'm all for that. I don't mind pumping my own gas and modern stations make it easy, convenient and fast. However, I do question where the savings is. In our neighboring state of New Jersey, they never legalized self-serve gas pumps. It is illegal for a motorist to pump their own gas in New Jersey. Yet, gas prices there are between 20 to 50 cents less a gallon than in New York. Makes you wonder where the savings went.

I truly believe that our economic crisis is tied directly to the rising gas prices. That until these prices are brought back down, the US will not recover. It is draining our pockets and strangling commerce. We need to bring the prices down for the short term and we need to find alternative fuels for the long term. We need to convert our infrastructure from oil based to something that is cleaner and more abundantly available. Whether it be hydrogen or solar or even farm based. We need to be working on it and fast! And not just until the current crisis subsides, we need to work on it until we find a solution!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Now From Cablevision: Match Game - A Contact Sport?

Many Cablevision Customers awoke last month to find that channel 88, the Game Show Network (GSN) was suddenly blocked on their TV. Many of them assumed, it must be a mistake. Afterall, they have all the basic channels and GSN has been a basic channel since its inception in 1994. So what gives?

Best of Match Game DVD Collection
Frantic calls to Cablevision's customer service number revealed a little note on the previous month's bill indicating that GSN would become part of the separate "IO Sports PAK" (later renamed as "IO Sports and Entertainment Pak"). This didn't make sense. This ala carte package contains all sports channels with the exception of GSN. It contains, hockey, tennis, horse racing, baseball, golf, and even cricket. The only thing that doesn't fit in the line up is GSN, a network primarily made up of old TV game shows and watched primarily by the over-60 crowd. Not the same demographic that is into contact sports.

Let me point out, that we've stood with Cablevision before, in their disputes with the various networks that have ransomed additional fees for the right to watch their shows. And, we have been crushed each time when Cablevision caved in. But, this channel change just doesn't make sense. It appears as an outright attempt to bolster a failing optional service package at the expense of senior citizens on fixed incomes. They really have no need for any of the other channels but are being forced to purchase them in order to see familiar programming.

SpongeBob SquarePants - The Complete 1st SeasonTo me this move makes as much sense as if they had moved Nickelodeon to the Adult Movie Package. They really should create a true ala carte pricing system. Let us pay $50 a month and pick the 20 channels we want to watch. If we want more channels, we'll pay more. In this way they are not beholding to the networks that want to hold them up for extortion. If ABC or Scripps think their channels are worth more a month, let the consumer actually decide, It will tame the networks' appetite for fees, and increase the quality of their programming when they have to compete directly for the consumers' dollars.

We can all see that this move was nothing more than a blatant grab for cash and I would urge Cablevision to rethink their position on this and return GSN to a more basic tier or at least offer it as a stand-alone option. If they really want to make a Sports Pak, why not take YES, SNY, MSG, ESPN and all the other true sports channels and add them to the package? Then they can reduce the cost of the basic service to those of who do not watch these channels and let those that want it, pay for it.