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August 21st, 2000

Priceline Gas

I was Priceline Gas’ number one fan before the special cards were mailed. The idea of prepaying for gas and saving “up to 20 cents a gallon” really appealed to me, considering the high price of gas. But once it finally came (over two months after it was promised), I was more than a bit disappointed.

The general idea is the same as other Priceline services: you put a request out for gas a certain price and pick a few stations close to your house or work, and within a minute, one of those stations accepts the price you ask for. You then use the Priceline gas card as a credit card with a special PIN to get the correct price. You prepay for your gas, up to 50 gallons at a time, and if the price at the pump drops below the price you bid, you get reimbursed the difference after a month. Sounds good, right?

I decided to give the card a shot when I got it. It works OK, but I was only saving six cents a gallon (nowhere near the “up to 20” that they mentioned in the promo material) — not really a great deal. Plus — and this was never announced beforehand — it turns out that while you can use the card for the first three months for free, after that, it’s $3 for each month that you use it! If you’re only saving six cents a gallon, you have to pump a lot of gas in order to just break even on the deal. In addition, you’re allowed to go four gallons over the amount that you prepaid for and only have to pay the pump price, but if you go over that (likely if you don’t pump exactly 10 gallons each time), you pay the pump price PLUS a $1.75 “service charge.”

I’m sorely disappointed with the Priceline Gas service. The monthly charge alone is a sham — they never mentioned that when they were originally setting up this new program, instead they just dropped it on people as they got their cards. Quite honestly, this is the first time I’ve used Priceline and felt like it really wasn’t a bargain. -ram

Posted in Technology

FROM: Paul
DATE: Monday August 21, 2000 -- 9:58:01AM
Wow, Ryan, that sucks. I was curious to know how things were going with that, as gas prices are back up to $1.45 here for 87 (grrr).

Similarly, I explored the Priceline Webhouse Club Card - the one that works at the supermarket, as we just got it here. It seems similar, with the $3 fee after the first three months. I thought that the process was a bit too time consuming overall - Webvan has a better way of doing it, but then you pay full price with them.

I read somewhere (epinions?) last week about how priceline works... essentially they're selling everyone's surplus inventory, just in a unique way.



FROM: Ryan
DATE: Monday August 21, 2000 -- 10:11:17AM
I believe if you pay $3/month for one of the cards, it also applies to the other (both are considered "WebHouse" cards, I guess)... so I guess if you use the grocery card enough, it might be worth it to use the gas card.

$1.45? That's not bad! I paid $1.46 AFTER Priceline's Gas card. :)



FROM: Paul
DATE: Monday August 21, 2000 -- 12:55:01AM
Well, that makes me feel better. :)



FROM: Robert
DATE: Monday August 21, 2000 -- 5:50:59PM
I've been paying $1.62/gallon these days. The cheapest I've seen it is $1.53. Aaaargh! I'm gonna go to Fredericksburg with some empty tanks some day soon.



FROM: Ryan
DATE: Monday August 21, 2000 -- 5:54:52PM
Robert -- F'burg is down about $1.32 at its best now...



FROM: Ryan
DATE: Friday August 25, 2000 -- 1:50:21AM
Good news!

Priceline just announced that they will be waiving the $3/month charge on their gasoline card! Looks like I'll be using it again. :)



FROM: Old Fezziwig
DATE: Friday October 6, 2000 -- 2:39:35PM
Looks like it's the end of the 'line' for Priceline gas & grocery.
http://www.cleveland.com/tech/index.ssf?/business/pd/f06price.html

-Fezz
www.oldfezziwig.com



FROM: Ryan
DATE: Friday October 6, 2000 -- 3:37:57PM
Yup. It's a shame, too... it was a good service for consumers who were willing to put in a few minutes time.



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