When the new QuikTrip in Suwanee opened in mid-April, the sign that listed gas prices showed an eye-popping $3.59 per gallon, at the time about 20 cents lower than any station nearby.
Other stations followed, but only two have maintained an ongoing gas price competition, which has sent prices on a three-mile stretch to among the lowest around metro Atlanta. The RaceWay (formerly RaceTrac), which is less than a mile away toward Lawrenceville has kept pace, as has the Kroger, both only a few pennies from $3 per gallon at the end of this week. The Kroger location is near Dean Road on Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road.
It's a stretch of less than three miles that motorists around the rest of the region may dream of.
Those three stations are in the top four of lowest prices among gas stations around Atlanta, according to atlantagasprices.com. The cheapest in the metro area? A Costco location in Duluth.
The business strategy behind gas prices is both psychological, and driven by profit margins.
The common theme from management at QT and Kroger at least, is they're in an all-out pursuit to beat the other guys.
"We're just not going to let anybody beat us," said QuikTrip spokesman Mike Thornbrugh.
Kroger spokesman Glynn Jenkins said the supermarket has a similar philosophy.
"Our Kroger strategy is simple: To match the lowest competitor nearest our Kroger fuel centers," Jenkins said.
Both men said the opening of the QT influenced pricing, and admitted that one business strategy is to get consumers inside a store to buy items that typically have a higher profit margin than fuel.
"Fuel stations are a very competitive industry," Jenkins said. "Therefore remaining competitive with fuel prices is a business strategy. Some gas stations are unable to stay as competitive when retail prices are declining because they may not 'turn their tanks' as often, meaning the higher fuel is still in the ground tanks."
What continues to perplex me is the other stations along the same route of Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road are 15 to 20 cents more expensive. Both Chevron stations near Interstate 85, a Shell, Sims and Texaco all listed gas for at least $3.19.
As gas prices continue to fall everywhere, there's a component that simply makes you feel good. Almost everyone has a friend or relative who routinely drives across town to save a nickel. When you do the math, taking 20 to 30 minutes to save what amounts to a few dimes and maybe a couple of quarters isn't very practical. But people do it because it makes them feel like they got a bargain.
While oil industry experts are again predicting prices for the next season, below $3 this fall, it's logical to be hesitant because the same people called for prices near $5 this summer. It's also near impossible to predict Middle East tensions, hurricanes and oil refinery glitches that all play a factor in the price.
Until then, we should enjoy the relatively cheap, and regionally competitive prices.
Keith Farner covers Suwanee for the Daily Post. Reach him at email@example.com.