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Letter: Does Minnesota ‘nice’ exist in PR?

For at least one segment of Park Rapids Minnesota “Nice” does not exist. Local service stations and convenience stores continually charge 10 cents or more per gallon higher for gasoline than neighboring cities.

It has been a welcome reprieve from the $3.50 or higher to the $1.99 per gallon price of gasoline we have lately. Yet, local retailers continue to charge at least 10 cents higher per gallon than Bemidji and Detroit Lakes. Ten cents at $3.50 represents 2.85 percent and 10 cents at $2 is 5 percent.

I have sent many emails, a few letters and made scores of phone calls to local, state and national legislatures. I have contacted corporate public relations offices of major gasoline retailers. The legislature’s conclusions are that nothing can be legally done. Lori Swanson, the State Attorney General, sent me a very involved three page letter that essentially states that signed contracts to fix prices must exist for an illegality. Thus, merely looking down the street and matching your neighbor’s price … even making a phone call to check what they are charging is not illegal.

The corporate public relations offices told me that their policy is to charge “according to their neighbors.” I implored them to be competitive price leaders and not price followers to no avail. Their stores in Detroit Lakes and Bemidji continue to be 10 to 12 cents less than Park Rapids. My take is one or two retailers or distributors in Park Rapids have found they can be price leaders and the rest follow along in a completely un-competitive manner. An “un-neighborly,” “an un-nice” policy.

I have learned a lot from this quest. I will continue to wave at people driving down the local roads and streets and I will attempt to be a good neighbor, attempt to be Minnesota Nice. I sincerely wish I could say the same for our local gasoline retailers and distributors.

Dale Kind