Frank DeCicco once owned a gas station. Now he depends on the precious fuel for his new business, Prestige Transportation.
The 60-year-old Naples resident still doesn’t understand it.
He understands the need. He doesn’t understand the fluctuation in price.
With gas prices skyrocketing 19 cents on average in less than a week and 4 cents per gallon overnight here in Southwest Florida, the yo-yo rate of change in the last six months has business owners wondering how to pass on the increase, or hopefully a decrease, to consumers.
“So far I’ve had to bite the bullet and haven’t changed prices in over two years,” said DeCicco, who has a fleet of 10 vehicles and spends about $4,000 a month on gas. “But you hear about prices going to $4 next summer. If they get there, then I will have to consider something.”
With a $3.122 average locally in the Fort Myers-Cape Coral area, prices still are a nickle away from breaking an all-time record ($3.17) set in May. The Naples area isn’t calculated in the AAA’s fuel price report.
Diesel fuel, however, is on the verge of setting a new standard. The average price for a gallon of diesel rose to $3.360, just percentage points behind the old record.
It seems regular gas prices are following suit.
Wednesday morning, at the The BP station on Cypress Terrace and U.S. 41, regular gas sold for $3.25 a gallon. At two different Chevrons on U.S. 41 in North Naples, the price wasn’t much cheaper at $3.19.
A year ago, the average price in the Fort Myers-Cape Coral area was $2.259.
Greg Laskoski, a Tampa-based AAA spokesman, rattled off a list of reasons for the increase _ from the record price of crude to a depletion in the U.S. inventory. He speculated that the increase may be a result of a few owners trying to take advantage of the uncertain situation.
“Sometimes the change of price is reflective of what wholesalers are charging or what retailers are expecting the next shipment to cost,” Laskoski said. “Some prices might just be a case of retailers being opportunistic.”
DeCicco owned what was once the Amoco station at Davis Boulevard and County Road 951, now known as Collier Boulevard, at a time when gas barely topped $1 and lnterstate 75 didn’t run through Collier County .
He said even back then, the gas salesmen would try to control the prices so they were consistent throughout the area.
“I’d be like one of the last places he would come and he would tell me what to sell it for but he’d have a list of prices of whatever everyone else was selling it for and said it might be in my best interest to have the same price,” DeCicco said.
Gas prices aren’t regulated and station owners are allowed to sell gas for whatever price they believe they can fetch.
While everyone wants their piece of the pie, the price of a slice has even gone up.
Luigi’s Pizzeria in Naples doesn’t deliver. Yet, owners Carlo and Kelly Iantosca are dealing with the soaring price of gas. Luigi’s recently had to increase the price of a large cheese pizza 30 cents, from $13.50 to $13.80, as a result of gas surcharges from vendors.
The surcharges on deliveries range from $1 to $2. Kelly Iantosca said that some companies such as Coca-Cola will not make a delivery unless she orders 10 or more items. She said they didn’t want to increase prices considering the current state of the economy. She said her business was down 60 percent.
“When it comes out of our commission ... we didn’t have much choice,” Iantosca said. “We understand times are tough; we have a lot business owners and county employees as customers so we don’t want to make it any tougher.”
Laskoski said the price of diesel fuel used by delivery trucks is in line with the economy and the output.
“There is a huge demand for diesel fuel and it is relative to the economy,” Laskoski said. “More people are skipping going to the mall and (instead) are using the Internet for their shopping purposes. And those packages still have to get to their homes.”
DeCicco, who services several resorts in Naples, said he’s seeing fewer people use limos and taxis. He started a ride-share program to give people a bargain option. He said others in his industry have discussed adding a surcharge to fares.
DeCicco doesn’t want to have to consider an additional cost.
“How much can you raise it?” he said. “I want to be fair but there comes a time when it I can’t bite the bullet anymore.”