Art Swartz is mad as hell and he isn't going to take it any more.
On Wednesday, Swartz plans to reduce gasoline prices at his Hess service station on Route 1 in Alexandria near Fort Belvoir to what he pays Amerada Hess for the gas. He'll lose money on the deal, he said, but he'll make a point about the disparity between what oil companies charge independent dealers like himself and what they charge company-owned stations -- a difference that has a lot of other independent dealers steamed as well.
Swartz said he is paying $1.15 a gallon wholesale for unleaded regular gas, which he sells at $1.219. Company-owned Hess stations nearby, however, are selling gas at $1.19 a gallon, indicating that their wholesale price is lower. Most oil companies have raised their wholesale prices to independent dealers by far more than the prices to company-owned stations in the weeks since Iraq invaded Kuwait, sending oil prices skyrocketing.
"It's unfair competition," Swartz said. "I believe in free enterprise, but this is not free enterprise." So, for one day, he'll cut his price to the bone to let his customers know what he's going through and strike a blow for independent dealers. "I think it's time somebody at least knew about it," he said.