BP stations hurt by company's damaged reputation
VALRICO - Eddie Salem knows first hand just how important timing can be. He's owned a gas station at the corner of Lithia Pinecrest and Lumsden roads in Valrico for the past 3 1/2 years. For more than three years, the station sold Chevron gas. The day before the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf, Salem signed a contract with BP. Since then, he's seen his gas sales drop 20 percent, and sales inside his convenience store have fallen off 30 percent. Employee Eduardo Marquin has witnessed the drop from his post behind the cash register."It gets frustrating when you have so many people come in and tell you to your face that it's your fault," he said. Marquin said the verbal abuse doesn't stop there. "I'll go outside and change the gas prices and you'll hear people honking and yelling," he said. BP announced last week it will pay between $50 million and $70 million dollars to help retailers and distributors who've been hurt by BP gas boycotts. There are 11,000 U.S. retailers who may be eligible for a portion of the funds. Salem has already applied for compensation.Marquin said he's glad BP is stepping up to help. He sees it as the right thing to do. "It's just unexpected, you know? There's nothing you can really do except try to move forward and hope for the best," Marquin said. Customer Tracy Hoyt agrees. She shops the gas station at least three times month, but admits she's gone to the Shell station across the street several times since the oil spill started. But she also realizes many BP gas stations are locally owned, and boycotting the retailer only ends up hurting local business. "I'm trying to continue shopping here because the owners of this station didn't create the spill, that's just where they get their gas," Hoyt said.
Reporter Natalie Shepherd can be reached at (813) 225-2703.