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"Using the Internet to Save on Gasoline"
  03/15/2000

OPEC may not be increasing oil production anytime soon. It seems highly unlikely that the US will release gasoline from its strategic fuel reserves. With the retail price of gasoline at a 10-year high, there may be some help on the horizon for excessively rising gas prices. In May, you'll be able to use the Priceline web site to name a price you're willing to pay for gasoline at your local stations. 

According to the Priceline web site, starting May 20, the company will launch a new service that will make it possible for drivers to ignore the price of gasoline at the pump. Instead, drivers will be able to go to priceline.com and name their own price for up to 50 gallons of gas a month. After locking in their price, drivers can get their gas at local major-brand gas stations. 

According to Priceline, drivers can expect to save between 10 cents to 20 cents a gallon, and sometimes more. These claims are based upon the fact that Priceline will get money from several sources to lower the gas prices paid by its customers. These sources include the gas stations, ad revenue from the web site and major oil company sponsorship. 

There are several steps that will need to be followed in order to acquire the gasoline. The first step is to obtain the Priceline Gasoline Card. The card is available without charge from the priceline.com web site. All prior Priceline customers will automatically receive the Priceline card. 

The first time a consumer goes to the web site to name the price they are willing to pay for gasoline, the consumer enters the identification number on the back of their Priceline card and enters the details of their major credit card (or debit). This information is then stored for purchase if the price is accepted. 

The second step is to make selections for the grade, the price per gallon that they are willing to pay, and how many gallons they wish at that price. According to web site figures, it will be limited to up to 50 gallons per household per month. Consumers then select three or more local gas stations at which they are willing to get their gas. Consumers will receive an approval or rejection of their price within a matter of minutes. If the price is accepted, that price is locked in, the consumer's credit card is charged for the total purchase amount, and the consumer is given the name of their designated station. It may be a combination of all three or only one of them. If the per-gallon price offered by the consumer is not accepted, there is no cost. However, the consumer must wait at least one day to try again.

When the consumer actually pumps the gas, they will receive a receipt via electronic mail. If the gasoline prices suddenly lower, the difference will be refunded to their credit card. Any pre-paid gas that is not used will be refunded.

Using the Internet to save on goods has become very common. However, it remains to be seen if customers will take to purchasing their gasoline online.

  - by Clayton Crooks

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