Trust, gas prices conflict in Eagle-Vail
EAGLE COUNTY Ollie Holdstock no longer trusts customers to pay for their gas hes lost too much money from people stealing it this year. That small-town mentality of counting on honesty letting people pay for gas after they pump is gone. I like having my place like that, said Holdstock, owner of Route 6 Cafe on U.S. Highway 24 in Eagle-Vail. So having people drive off really harshed my mellow. Holdstock had three total gas thefts last year compared with five gas thefts this year before he recently switched to pre-pay. The average price of gasoline in the United States has risen more than a dollar since a year ago Monday, according to the American Automobile Association. In Vail on Thursday, regular unleaded gas was about 38 cents above the national average per gallon and 43 cents above the state average of $4.063, according to fuelgaugereport.com and mapquest.com.But drive-offs or gas skips, when someone fills up and scrams without paying, in unincorporated Eagle County havent increased significantly since last year. There were five drive-offs as of last week in unincorporated Eagle County compared with a total of eight last year, said Shannon Cordingly, spokeswoman for the Sheriffs Office. Nor have police seen them rise in Avon or Vail, they say.There has not been an increase in gas skips since the price of oil and gas have gone up, said Detective Sgt. Craig Bettis of the Vail Police Department. Surprisingly, it did not correlate to any type of criminal behavior.Most gas stations in the Vail Valley have switched to make their customers pay with cash or credit before they can fill up, keeping the number of gas skips low, gas station workers say. At first, people were frustrated when Phillips 66 in Avon switched to pre-pay a year ago, said the stores manager, Anakut Loya. Customers have adapted since then. Now I dont ever hear anybody complaining about it, Loya said. The Conoco gas station across the street was losing a great deal of money around $600 one week, for instance until it switched to pre-pay last year, said the stores manager, Bridgette Boker. People still complain and sometimes they drive away, she said. But people complain about everything, she said. The Shop & Hop in Eagle-Vail has surveillance cameras, making gas thieves easier to catch, said cashier Veronica Trujillo. Trujillo always has an eye on customers at the pumps, too, she said. Well know who they are if gas is stolen, she said. Holdstock isnt trying to gouge people on gas. After all, he makes more money selling a bottle of Budweiser than on a gallon of gas, on which he profits less than 10 cents a gallon. Insurance, labor, credit card fees and other costs eat up profits thats why gas stations are closing around the country, he said. Gas is just what gets people to come inside and buy more profitable goods, such as cookies and cigarettes, he said.But Holdstock doesnt think he will be able to sell gas anymore if it reaches, say, $7 a gallon. Gas is so expensive its just going to get worse and worse, he said. Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 970-748-2931 or firstname.lastname@example.org.