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Gas price fluctuations frustrate consumers

It took 10 years and at least $600 million to figure out big muscles, not computers, can best move baggage.
/ Source: NBC News

Charles Moreland of Annapolis runs a grass-cutting business.  When he fills his fuel jugs every day, he shops for the best price along a short stretch of State Road Two, where he finds seven stations — each trying to offer the least amount of pain at the pump, at a time when pain is guaranteed.

“It goes up 45 to 50 cents in one week, says Angiel Stebbing, “That’s ridiculous.”

Some customers, like Jerry Fender, still look for the humor in it: "You have to take out a mortgage or float a loan," he says laughing, “to get gasoline.”

But, day by day, it’s getting more cutthroat. Some stations, says BP Manager Kevin Tender, are sending out scouts each morning “to see what they’re selling it for up the street.”

And, more and more customers have been seen fighting for space at the low-price pump at the cash-only station.

Retailers tell NBC News when they change prices — up to five times a day — they’re not trying to gouge their customers, but just hold onto them. Or at least lose as few as possible.

They say they raise their prices whenever headquarters says market pressures demand it.  Which means long lines for whoever has the lowest price on a given day — and an end to the 15-20,000 gallon days at the nearby, but more expensive, Xtra station.

Industry analyst Tom Kloza says the volatility in gas and oil prices is more like the tech frenzy of the ’90s: a bubble that will likely burst.  “This November and December you will see prices dropping, at some point, by 10 or 15 cents a gallon a week,” says Kloza.

But not for now.