Gas: All Eyes On the Price
Dan Ariely thinks we’re paying paying too much attention to the price of gasoline. He says we can’t help it because the price is plastered on every street corner, reported in every newscast, and we stand there day in and day out filling up our cars while staring at the meter:
For the several minutes that I stand at the pump, all I do is stare at the growing total on the meter — there is nothing else to do. And I have time to remember how much it cost a year ago, two years ago and even six years ago. [...]
While we concentrate our anger on gas prices, we are ignoring increases in electricity, food and health insurance — expenses that might actually have a greater effect on our budgets.
I’ve read news reports about people who drive 20 miles from California to Mexico just to buy cheaper gas, and about people who trade in the gas-guzzling S.U.V.’s that they bought only a year ago for more fuel-efficient cars… I wonder if the person driving to Mexico considers the cost of the entire trip, including his time and wear and tear on the car. And I wonder if the person who takes a $20,000 loss on his S.U.V. ends up paying more for the trade than he can possibly save at the pump.
Perhaps it would be better if gas station attendants filled the tank for us, as they used to, so we did not stand at the pump watching the rising price of our gasoline. Maybe it would help if gas pumps came with bigger hoses so that filling up would go faster and we’d spend less time watching the meter. Or maybe we should just learn to examine all our purchases and expenses more holistically so that we see where rising costs make the biggest difference.
Meanwhile, the NYTimes reports a rise in online shopping in response to gas prices:
The Web sites of Neiman Marcus, Saks, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Bon-Ton Stores, Aéropostale, American Eagle Outfitters, Target and Kmart were all offering a deal on shipping this week.
“With gas being such an issue, we know that mall traffic is down more than off-mall traffic,” said Mike Boylson, chief marketing officer for J. C. Penney, which had an 8.7 percent increase in Internet sales in the first quarter of this year.
That is in contrast to a 7.4 percent decrease in sales at stores open at least a year, known as same-store sales and a measure of retail health.
Hm. If they’re offering incentives, is it really gas prices that are driving those online sales?
RELATED: Wired says, “Forget hydrogen. The car of the future has an extension cord and a great big laptop battery…”