BP Station Owners to Get Financial Relief

A few days after the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon drilling rig blew up and began leaking oil into the Gulf of Mexico in April, Eli Achi braced for the backlash.

But Achi, a native of Lebanon who independently owns and operates a BP service station in Arlington, Mass., never thought the disaster would last this long, or that his business would suffer this badly.

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"Business is way, way down," he said. "People don't want to buy gas from me. And it just keeps getting worse. BP has done nothing to help."

That soon could change.

Wholesale Price Breaks

Starting this week, BP plans to roll out a series of initiatives aimed at helping the independent retailers of its gasoline, including a program that will allow regional BP gas distributors to offer some selected retailers a discount, according to John Kleine, executive director of the BP Amoco Marketers Association. Amoco, as well as Arco, are owned by BP.

Kleine said that money will also be available for targeted marketing campaigns, but only for those gas station owners hardest hit.

"This is not a one-size-fits-all initiative," Kleine said. "Each situation is different."

The plan, which follows a meeting last week between BP marketing officials and distributors, who are also hurting, is going to be aimed at distributors and will begin to be communicated to them this week, Kleine said. Some 475 BP gasoline distributors deliver product by tanker to some 10,000 BP fill-up stations/convenience stores, most of which are independently owned. The distributors, who buy from terminals, will get a break on prices, and, in turn, will have discretion to give discounts to individual station owners.

"Some store owners need help more than others," Kleine said. "This is a dynamic problem that requires flexibility, but relief is coming."

BP boycotts began to accelerate at the end of May. At least two liberal-leaning organizations, including the Washington, D.C.-based Public Citizen, the consumer watchdog group founded by Ralph Nader; and Democracy for America, a Burlington, Vermont-based political action committee; have begun anti-BP campaigns. Democracy for America is asking its one million members to boycott BP stations in a campaign that started last month and features bumper stickers that read "AnyoneButBP." Additionally, a Facebook page dedicated to promoting a BP boycott garnered 800,000 followers, but, according to reports that surfaced early Tuesday, has now disappeared from the popular website.

Stations See Sales Down 20 Percent

Like many station owners under contract to sell BP gas under the BP banner, Achi said he has been looking to the oil company for help offsetting a sharp decline in business as a result of formal boycotts and negative public perceptions.

But, as with the disaster in the Gulf, relief has been slow to come, and patience is almost on empty. Last week, independent station owners and distributors, who are also feeling the effects of the boycotting, began to press the company for financial relief. Scott Dean, a BP spokesman, also confirmed that the company is set to make an announcement about some measures that would be aimed at helping independent gas station owners.

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