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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

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