Monday, April 11, 2011

Most expensive gas in town

Madison Park's one-and-only gas station apparently has the dubious honor of charging the highest price for gasoline of any station in Seattle.  This, according to KING-TV, which used the Shell station at the corner of E. Madison St. and Lake Washington Boulevard as the poster child for a recent story on higher gas prices. The cost of regular unleaded fuel today at the Madison Park Shell is $4.099.  But since you'd never be able to actually pay that 9/10ths of a cent if you bought a single gallon, we might as well just round up and say $4.10.

Not surprisingly, for those who pay attention to such things, the geographically next-closest Shell station (located at 1701 E. Madison Street, on Capitol Hill), was today charging ten cents per gallon less for the exact same fuel.  The MPB reader who pointed this story out to us said she was vexed to discover that even the stand-alone gas station in Medina (admittedly not a Shell station, so a little less of an apples-to-apples comparison) was charging only $3.95 per gallon when she drove by this morning.  Shocking!

Our reader says she believes the Madison Park Shell is doing a "disservice" to the neighborhood, since other stations always seem to have much lower prices than ours.  There seems to be an economic principle at work here, however, having to do with charging "what the market will bear" for your product. The Madison Park Shell (nee Texaco) has been around a long time, seems to know its audience, and doesn't appear to be failing to sell its product, though the gasoline there seems to be consistently more expensive than the close-at-hand alternatives (we haven't done a scientific survey, but the anecdotal evidence is pretty convincing).

The other principal worth noting is caveat emptor (Latin for let the buyer beware).  In a legal sense, this term is usually applied to the risk of buying a product or service.  As applied to buying gasoline in Madison Park, the concept might mean this:  if you don't know you're paying more for the convenience of buying gas in your own neighborhood, you may end up paying more than you otherwise would. Madison Park Blogger readers (and KING-TV viewers), at least, now can make an informed decision when buying gas.

By the way, gas prices are quoted daily on, which today shows $3.69 per gallon as the cheapest price for unleaded in the Seattle area (at a Citgo station on the Eastside).   KING-TV has a great map of area gas prices, based on data from GasBuddy. Madison Park is a real stand out on today's map.


  1. Yah!!! for Bryan - and BOO for that Shell station - how stupid are moterists??

  2. There's not surpise here. That station has had higher prices than other stations for many years. At least in the past it could be justified because the station was full-service, with mechanics and lifts. Now it's just another unnecessary "convenience" store that doesn't offer any automotive services, yet it still sells really expensive gasoline.

  3. I never buy gas at that Shell, I will always drive past it on my way to 23rd and Union (now that the station there has re-opened). But having said that, retail sales of gasoline in a city is the ultimate free market - if people are dumb enough to buy gas there, they can charge whatever they want.

    It would be different if they had some sort of natural monopoly (say the only station in a town of 500 people in the middle of northeastern Washington), but people have plenty of choices, it ain't that hard to drive up the street a bit. If some people aren't price sensitive and/or are willing to pay for the convenience, the station has every right to charge for that. But the price is pretty steep: in some cases I have paid 40 cents less a gallon, depending on the day and grade of gas.

  4. I heartily suggest that all Madison Park residents boycott this gas station. Given the 'whatever the market will bear' attitude instead of sensible regulation of these oil companies that have obscene profits, the best thing consumers can do is get the word out-THANK YOU MPB- and boycott.
    That station used have really good owners and excellent service and mechanics like Mohammed, who was essentially given the boot by the next owner assholes. BTW, Tacoma gas many places is 15 cents/gal less than Seattle, why is that? Where are the regulators when we need them?

  5. I have lived in the Park for well over a decade and that gas station has always been the most expensive, just as Bert's is a very overpriced grocery store. We always drive else where for both groceries and gas, unless in a pinch. It isn't that shocking, as they are making us pay for convenience.

  6. We Madison Park residents must continue to support local businesses, NO MATTER WHAT THE COST IS! We've don'e this for years and we really don't like outsiders, do we?

    Loyal MP residents must continue to boycott outside businesses and yes we don't want any competition either!

  7. I support local businesses but when price gouging turns into exploitation then I draw the line.

    Re Anonymous not wanting competition and not liking outsiders - I think some Madison Park residents need to broaden their horizons and drop the insular attitude.

  8. I'm trying to figure out how Shell is a local business -- now if it were "Fred's Gas Station," that could qualify, but Shell? Really?

  9. Why should Madison Park residents change their insular attitude when it's works so well for so many decades? For example, we are very happy with empty store front and dirty streets, since they are out stores and streets!

    We really need a gate at Lk Washington BLVD and E Madison, so we can keep our pristine as it is, right?

  10. Come on now. Get a clue. The reason this gas costs more is the incredibly convenient location this gas station enjoys and undoubtedly pays for handsomely. And that includes the high property taxes it supports.

    People use it because it saves them time to buy their gas there and time is money.

    This is called the free market for those of you in Rio Linda.

    If you don't want to pay the slightly higher price for gas here no one is forcing you to. Go somewhere else and buy your gas. Believe it or not it's a free country!

    The fact that it can charge these prices means the public has decided with their pocket books that it's worth it for them.

    This is not a conspiracy. This is not a disservice to anyone. This is the free market and I, for one, like the free market.

    The lack of understanding of basic economics among people in Seattle never ceases to amaze me.

    Steve Waszak
    Madison Park resident for over 30 years

    P.S. I buy my gas here about twice a year only when I'm desperate for time. Otherwise, I buy my gas at Costco where it's significantly less expensive. Costco is another Seattle innovation and another part of our free market economy.

  11. Oh no! A voice of reason! I'm not sure we can handle that . . . .

  12. This gas station has been expensive for as long as I can remember. My dad used to always fill up in the U District, though my mom preferred the convenience of filling up a few blocks from home at this station.

    It's been a long time — probably 25 years or so — since there were three, and then two, stations on this corner (and remember the Arco down near McGilvra?) — does anyone remember what the relative prices were back then?

    As for it being a local business, sure it sells Shell gasoline, but there's a good chance it's owned by people, not the megacorporation. This is why I don't boycott particular brands' stations — I'm much more likely to be hurting a small-business owner than I am to be hurting BP, Chevron, or whoever.


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