Gas Stations Owners Feel the Pump Pain, Too

May 24, 2005 — -- Every morning, Abir Aljariri, who owns a convenience store gas station in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., checks her competitor's prices.

She then calculates what she will charge for her gas that day, hoping she has a chance at a small profit or at least at breaking even.

Right now, with the high gas prices, even a 1 cent difference per gallon would make a difference for Aljariri.

Welcome to the white-knuckled world of convenience store gas stations -- half of which are mom-and-pop operations and approximately where 80 percent of the country's gas is sold.

Gas companies own less than 5 percent of the country's gas stations. Like everyone else, mom-and-pop gas station owners are struggling with the high prices.

If you spend the average $2.88 on a gallon of gas, this is what happens: $1.56 goes to crude oil, 75 cents to refining, 48 cents to taxes, and 9 cents to distributing and marketing the gas. Then, the gas station owner can add a few cents on top of the gallon price so he or she can make a profit.

'I'm Worried About My Kids … Paying the Mortgage'

Aljariri, who is the sole supporter of her family, said the high gas prices terrified her.

"I'm worried about my kids," she said. "I'm worried about paying the mortgage of my home."

In good times -- when gas prices are low -- Aljariri can make a good living. With high gas prices, convenience store economics are treacherous. Aljariri said her customers were carpooling and avoiding her convenience store, where two-thirds of her profits are made, because of the money they're spending on gas.

"When they come in after spending that much money on gas, they don't want to buy a piece of gum," she said.

Lately, Aljariri said, the credit card companies were eating up what little profits -- 3 cents to 4 cents per gallon -- she made. With prices so high, customers prefer plastic to cash, and credit card companies take 3 percent of every transaction. Aljariri said she paid credit card companies about $1,500 to $1,600 a week in fees.

"We really do go through weeks and weeks without making any profits," she said. "I mean sometimes a month [goes] at a time, and we don't see a red cent. It's really very scary, and it's like about surviving now."

ABC News's Claire Shipman reported this story for "Good Morning America."