BP offering cash to hurting gas stations

By Laura Geller - bio | email
Posted by Meg Thalhimer - email

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) –  As oil continues to gush into the Gulf, the boycott of BP stations continues to grow.  Tuesday we learned the company is now offering a lifeline to the gas stations bearing its name.  The oil giant announced it will offer financial help to stations feeling the pinch as customers boycott the brand.  That includes stores right here in our area.

That assistance comes in the form of cash infusions, reductions in credit card fees and help with advertising.  Gas station owners said it couldn't come at a better time as new June sales figures show the true impacts of the disaster, including a bottom line that continues to fall.

The nightmare the gushing oil creates, stretches from the Gulf Coast to BP gas stations in Central Virginia, where every store bearing the BP name is owned by an independent business person, not the oil giant.

One local owner told NBC12 last month he hadn't seen a drop off in business.  We checked in with him Tuesday to find disappointing news. June sales at his three stores have gone down.

Owners of several stations said they bring in customers with gas but make most of their money on convenience store sales.  So, if drivers are avoiding the BP name at the pump, that means stores are losing big bucks on items like tobacco and food.

A bit of good news from BP is welcome.  We're told the company plans to spend roughly $50M to $70M to compensate owners, operators and suppliers.

"There's been a lot of mistakes made and hopefully over time they're going to be rectified, maybe this is just one instance of them recognizing that this is something that needed to be done," said Virginia Petroleum, Convenience and Grocery Association President Mike O'Connor.

Only time will tell if this something will keep local businesses afloat.

"Anytime a private company is willing to help out, is willing to take themselves and hold themselves accountable for something is certainly worthwhile," said BP customer Mike Banholzer.

The cash component will be based on the distributor's volume, so of course the more stores, the more money you'll get.  Much of the effort will focus on Gulf Coast facilities, but chains here in town told NBC12 they will also get a piece of the pie.  Exact figures have yet to be determined.

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