Mike Greenberg's Triple Gee Amoco in Northeast Washington pumped 90,000 gallons of gasoline last month -- a 34 percent drop from January.
But he is hardly feeling a financial pinch. His profits last were up about $4,200 -- an increase of 59 percent.
The extra profits are possible, in part, because federal price rules allow Greenberg now to make 12 to 13 cents profit per gallon on some grades of gasoline. In January, he made only 2 to 3 cents a gallon.
The financial picture at Greenberg's Tripple Gee, at 1580 New York Ave. NE, one of five stations he owns in partnership with his brothers, illustrates how the traditionally high-volume, low-profit dealers are now prospering in The Gas Crunch of '79.
"I'm not going to debate that profits might be up," Greenberg conceded. In the past, he said, "profits were below what they should have been. We've had five years of low prices."
In January, Triple Gee pumped 137,000 gallons of gas and appears to have earned a total profit of $7,188, based on calculations from figures supplied by Greenberg and Amoco officials.
Now, while pumping 90,000 gallons a month, he earns $11,429 in profit, according to the calculations, an increase of $4,241 a month.
In the past few months, many conventional full-service dealers -- unable to secure sufficient supplies, which are determined by each station's past volume history -- have been badly hurt, losing old customers to high-volume dealers.
Many conventional station owners say the shortages have forced them to lay off longtime workers, as well as part-time help.
But Greenberg has not laid off any of his 30 employes, though one mechanic had a heart attack last week, a casualty Greenberg attributes to the pressures associated with any booming bussiness.
"I believe the gas crisis gave it to him, he said.
The pace at Triple Gee Amoco is certainly more frantic today than it was six months ago.
On Saturday, in fact, the cashier at Triple Gee was still counting the morning's take two hours after the pumps shut down. "It takes a lot longer to count the money," the employe said, reaching into the cash drawer.
The profit picture should be even rosier this month at Triple Gee and at Greenberg's other stations. Amoco has promised its dealers a 5 percent supply increase in July.
Greenberg maintains that the lot of the high-volume dealer may not be as rosy as it first appears. "We have to compete with other high-volume dealers like Merit, BP, Scott, Exxon, Shell and Texaco self-service stations," he said. "I've been working harder than i've ever worked, 18-hour days if you count phone calls at home -- and that goes for Sundays.
Inspection of the profit margins at Triple Gee, a typical high-volume station, reveals that total profits on regular have jumped from $600 in January to $2,480 at present. During the same period, the amount of regular gasoline pumped dropped from 25,000 to 20,500 gallons.
For unleaded, gross profits increased from $1,128 in January to $3,651 a month at present, according to the figures. During the same period, volume of unleaded dropped from 47,000 to 27,000 gallons, according to Greenberg.
Triple Gee's gross profits on premium actually dipped slightly, from $5,460 in January to $5,292 at present, a curious phenomenon that runs counter to market history.
From January to June, Greenberg's profit increased as follows: On regular he was making a profit of 2.44 cents a gallon in January. Today he is making a profit of 12.1 cents. On unleaded his profit jumped from 2.4 cents to 13.3 cents. On premium, it went from 8.4 cent to 12.6 cents.
Triple Gee's figures demonstrate the advantages enjoyed by dealers who can show a history of high volume. Greenberg says that his New York Avenue station obtained 16,000 extra gallons last month by showing that it pumped 10 percent more gasoline during the five-month period from October 1978 to February 1979 (the time frame the government picked as a baseline for gasoline allocations) than it did for the corresponding period a year earlier.
If a dealer "showed he was a good businessman and built up his volume," he should be entitled to more gasoline, said Greenberg.
In fact, he maintained that Triple Gee, his other stations -- and every dealer in Washington -- would have received more gallonage, along with more profits, had February been excluded from the government's calculation of an allocation base. "That was the month of the blizzard," he pointed out.
Federal allocation procedures and the nature of the high volume dealer's bussiness account for the quantity of gasoline at Greenberg's and other high-volume merchants such as Amerada Hess, whose Merit self-serve station in Arlington has been able to pump around the clock, Monday through Friday. Stations up and down the road, meanwhile are forced to parcel out limited supplies like thirsty men crossing the desert on one canteen.
The regulations "punish the weak and reward the strong" concludes the June 22 Lundberg Letter, a respected petroleum newsletter that warns of the almost certain demise of conventional, full-service dealers if federal allocation rules remain in place. They will soon "be driven out of bussiness," predicts the newsletter.
Greenberg calls the rules "very fair. No one knew a crisis was coming."
"Of course, we're in a different situation," he said. "Stations with high volumes are going to make it through a crunch [more easily] than stations with low volumes. They've lost service work because of the long lines. We don't do service work."
Greenberg's Triple Gee is still manned around the clock, but gasoline is pumped only six to seven hours a day, Monday through Friday, and weekends from 6:30 to 1 p.m.
A 1966 graduate of the University of Maryland with a B.A. in bussiness, Greenberg worked summers at the gas station his father bought in 1963 at the corner of Fourth Street and Florida Avenue NE. The family also owns United Drug Service, a wholesale outlet that supplies candy and cigarettes to retail outlets, including high-volume gas stations.
Greenberg depicts the gas station bussiness as a vicious, highly competitive field with dark stormclouds looming on the profit horizon. "I had a customer tell me the other day, 'I'm taking the Metro and saving $30 a week.' They may never drive to work again," Greenberg said.
So while he worries about an uncertain, future, Greenberg says he is going to try to make some money while he can.
"In any competitive situation," he said, "there is going to be a businessman who is a better businessman." CAPTION: Picture 1, Cash intake is counted at Tripple Gee Amoco. By John McDonnel -- The Washington Post; Picture 2, A pair of idle gasoline nozzles frame the Capitol dome, symbolizing the nation's energy problem. By John McDonnel -- The Washington Post; Graph, How to Tell When It's the End of Summer, The Washington Post