Retailers say gas thefts rising with prices

Monday, June 19th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Rising gasoline prices are accompanied by another unsavory development -- rising gasoline thefts.

Retailers said more people are driving off without paying for gasoline as prices continue to climb.

At the Food Mart Gas & Groceries, Hoang Tran said he's frustrated by more drive-offs lately.

"We have so many," Tran said.

A man took off with $18.75 worth the day before, he said. He didn't get a description for police.

"It happened so fast," Tran said.

Tony Lieu works at his family owned convenience store, QC Grocery. He said he doesn't always call police when people steal gasoline.

"We don't really want to bother the police because they have more important things to look into," Lieu said.

Besides, having a police report doesn't accomplish much, he said.

Since prices rose a month ago, his family has had about 10 gasoline drive-offs a week. He said before prices increased in May, the store had one or two drive-offs weekly.

Despite rising thefts, the store wants to continue to let customers pump first and then pay, Lieu said.

"Some people don't like paying in advance," he said.

Love's Country Stores has had more recent drive-offs, but there are no plans to make Love's customers pay in advance either, spokeswoman Jenny Love Meyer said.

"We don't do that," Meyer said.

She said the stores selling gasoline are not to blame for high prices. Despite the high prices, Meyer said the store makes less than a dime on each gallon sold.

"Right now, the customer perception is that we are the ones that are artificially inflating gas prices, but the profits we make come from inside the store," she said. "The profit margin from gasoline sales is very small."

Lieu said his store profits only about 4 cents on the gallon.