When it comes to staying ahead of the competition, the gasoline pumping business isn't too sophisticated in tracking prices and trends.
Unlike the oil industry, which subscribes to expensive services that publish oil and wholesale refinery costs around the country, service station owners just hop in their cars and drive through the marketplace to get an idea of prices.For 10 years, Richard Schultz had been cruising the competition, wishing someone else could do it for him and do a better job. Then recently he decided he could fill that niche as well as anyone and he formed his own company to do it.
For two weeks, All Points Inc. has been surveying 98 percent of the retail gasoline prices in Salt Lake County and compiling the data to sell to service station operators, media and government.
To date, Schultz hasn't finalized a contract for the service, but he said service station owners that have seen the exhaustive daily survey of more than 360 service stations have expressed interest in it.
"This is a very competitive market," he said. "With this information I can tell what could transpire in different areas of the valley in the next few days."
Schultz said pump prices vary in different areas of the county. In the past two weeks, prices have been lowest in the southeast quadrant. But within three days, stations in the northern end of the valley adopted the lower southeast prices.
"On the other side of the coin, our data can help service stations verify the price surveys they send their employees out to do," he said.
If this initial venture is a success, Schultz said, he hopes to expand his survey to include the entire Wasatch Front. Just as prices differ in areas of Salt Lake Valley, he said, gasoline usually costs more in Ogden than Provo and more in Provo than Salt Lake County.
Offering some of the survey information to the general public is another possibility, Schultz said, although he hasn't determined how to make it available to consumers.
Fearing others with more resources could copy his idea and outrace him for clients, Schultz declined to disclose his rates or how he conducts his survey five days a week. But he said he and two assistants can get it done and distributed to potential clients within four hours.
Concerning fuel prices dropping below a dollar within the past week, Schultz, who has 19 years of experience as an area supervisor for service station chains, said slack demand in the winter season and a glut of petroleum on the market have driven the prices down.
The trend could continue, but not much longer as spring arrives and increased travel steps up demand and prices.
"They will gradually go up in spring, then the big push (for high prices) will be in June," he predicted.
Here's a sampling of prices for regular unleaded gas in Salt Lake and Utah counties as of Friday morning.
Salt Lake County
315 S. West Temple .989
1605 S. Foothill Dr. .999
3901 S. Wasatch Blvd. .999
2716 W. 4700 S. .999
4783 W. 6200 S. .999
7000 S. Wasatch Blvd. .989
1680 W. 7800 S. .989
1316 W. 9000 S. .999
2095 E. 9400 S. .989
22 E. 9400 S. .979
1181 S. State, Clearfield 1.019
127 S. Main, Layton .999
219 W. Parrish Ln.,Centerville .999
391 N. 500 W., Bountiful .999
2301 S. Main, Bountiful .999
Salt Lake County - Average Price last week: 1.026
Average Price this week: .993
Davis County - Average Price last week: 1.031
Average Price this week: 1.033