updated 9/2/2005 7:11:50 PM ET 2005-09-02T23:11:50

Skyrocketing gas prices have 19-year-old Chris Mazzotta considering a career change.

Mazzotta has delivered pizzas for No Anchovies in Cromwell for the past two years, but his gas stipend of 50 cents per delivery is no longer covering his fuel costs.

“It’s at that point,” said Mazzotta, who expected to use at least $30 worth of gas to deliver about 20 orders on Thursday. “It’s already horrible.”

Across the country, small business owners and people who drive for a living are feeling a pinch from gasoline prices that have spiraled to more than $3 a gallon after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast.

“It’s just crazy,” said Maresa Pray, manager of a beauty shop in Waterford, 30 miles southeast of Cromwell. She’s considering allowing her 16 stylists to work three, 12-hour shifts at Lord’s and Lady’s Hair Salons so they don’t have to commute five days a week.

Peter Gioia, an economist with the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said that spikes in fuel prices tend to hurt working families the most.

“Typically in this sort of a scenario, lower-income people get hit much harder, because a greater percentage of their disposable income is used for fossil fuels, both gasoline and heating oil,” Gioia said.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell said she is also concerned with the impact rising fuel prices are having on business owners.

“These prices are hardest on our low- and middle-income residents, but they are far from alone,” Rell said. “I also worry for the small businesses that rely on delivery vehicles or the transportation network and face significantly higher costs.”

The price increases have been a double-edged sword for ZipCar, a ride-sharing service based in Cambridge, Mass. ZipCar offers cars that can be rented by the hour in and around Boston, New York City, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Higher prices have brought in more customers eager to share rides to reduce their fuel costs. But the company faces higher costs because it pays for the gas customers use.

“We’ve clearly seen a 10 to 15 percent uptick in the last few weeks in customer sign-ups,” said ZipCar’s chief executive, Scott Griffith, who attributes much of the increased interest to consumer worries about gas prices. “At about the time gas hit $2.50 a gallon this summer, everybody started saying, ’Gee, there’s got to be a better way to manage my transportation expenses.”’

Fuel prices typically account for about 7 percent of the cost of running ZipCar’s 700-vehicle fleet, but this week they’re running about 9 percent.

That’s not yet enough to justify an increase in the company’s rate, which ranges from $8.50 to $14 per hour, Griffith said. But if this week’s price spike is prolonged, ZipCar may have to raise prices, he added.

In the Denver area, Pudge Brothers Pizza is considering a 99 cent surcharge for deliveries, which are now free, president Bob Schwartz said.

“It’s been brutal,” Schwartz said. “Right now we give drivers 50 cents a run, but if I was them, I’d say that’s not covering it.”

In the New Haven, Conn., area, some 30 independent florists are swapping delivery orders to cut down on driving.

“Like anybody that’s out doing deliveries every day, it’s an additional cost,” said Rob Dietter of North Haven, who coordinates the delivery pool. “And it’s one more cost that florists can’t pass on to the consumer. It always seems like it’s the small guy that gets hit.”

Nick Aceto, a member of the pool and the owner of Consiglio’s Floral and Gifts in East Haven, said he may have to increase his delivery charge from $8 to $10.

He used to spend $40 to $50 a week on gas for his delivery van, but estimates that he now spends between $100 and $125 a week. Without the pool, the cost would be even higher.

“It hurts a little bit,” he said. “What I’m going to have to do eventually if it stays likes this, I’m going to have to raise my prices.”

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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