Man Kim shook his head in disgust. The owner of the Langley Park Texaco station is worried that he may be forced to close his business.
Although only two days have passed since Texaco Inc., one of the nation's biggest oil companies, stopped accepting credit card purchases in Maryland, Maryland service stations have begun to feel the effects.
"I couldn't sleep last night because I do not know what I am going to do," Kim said. Sales fell off by nearly a third the day after the company's decision, he said, from about 2,500 gallons of gasoline on Monday to 1,800 gallons on Tuesday.
Texaco decided to discontinue credit purchases after a new Maryland law went into effect Tuesday banning oil companies from imposing credit card fees on their dealers. Legislators said such a charge would ultimately raise the price of gasoline to consumers.
Texaco and the other major oil companies fought the law unsuccessfully in court, but Texaco is the first to withdraw credit cards since the defeat.
Kim, who currently charges $1.169 for regular gasoline and $1.209 for lead-free, said he believes customers prefer to pay by credit, even if it means going to a station with higher prices, because of the convenience.
"Everybody has no cash. They'll kill me," he said, motioning to his competitors along University Boulevard.
JoJo Cooper of Takoma Park was not pleased about having to pay cash for her gasoline at Kim's station. "It's a great inconvenience," she said. "For the most part, you don't like to carry money around."
Rusty DeMent, assistant manager of the Texaco station on Connecticut Avenue in Kensington, was reluctant to speculate on the long-term effect of halting credit card sales, but she did note that Tuesday's sales were about 500 gallons lower than the usual 3,000 gallons the station sells.
Many customers purchased gasoline at the less expensive self-service pumps after being told their credit cards would not be accepted, she said.
Not all Texaco stations seem to be adversely affected, for example those on major interstates. Jim Canami, manager of the Texaco Service Center near Aberdeen along I-95, said sales there have stayed about the same.
"People have no choice if they're out of gas," he said, noting that the majority of motorists along the route appear to have Mastercard and Visa charge cards, which Texaco continues to allows its dealers to honor.
Two of the four stations on the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway segment of I-95 sell Texaco gasoline.
The College Park Texaco station was still honoring Texaco credit cards yesterday because the manager, Brian Magee, said he had not been told by owner Koo Yuen to stop accepting credit payments.
Anthony Chowney, vice president of the Yuen company, said he was unaware that the station was continuing to allow credit payments. Chowney said he believed Texaco would allow the station a grace period to readjust its sales policy, but that the station might have to absorb the costs of the credit card sales since Tuesday.
The Texaco credit policy is so new, Texaco dealers are unsure how or if they will adjust their prices. After Atlantic Richfield dropped credit cards three months ago nationwide, many Arco stations lowered their prices because of decreased administrative costs, and, as a result, sales at these stations have reportedly jumped.
Business at the Adelphi Arco station on Riggs Road, for example, has never been better.
Manager Fazlur Kazim said as many as 15 cars will frequently be waiting in line for self-service purchases at $1.129 a gallon for regular and $1.169 for lead-free gasoline.
Kazim said his daily sales have tripled during the past three months, but he declined to quote the exact figures for fear of being robbed.
Jim Constantine, who drives a Maryland taxicab, said he misses the convenience of using cards at Arco, but the sacrifice is worth it.
"In these hard times every penny counts," he said. "It'll work out, I guess."