Tag Archives: selfishness

Psychology of Gas Prices: When a steal of a deal still leaves you feeling empty…

Gas prices went up. Of course the pending hurricane may have a factor. And the refinery issues. And matters related to supply and demand. But, of course there are other theories. Expressions like “Price gouging” often come up. And then there are many conspiracy theories.

Do you mind if I try my hand at a conspiracy theory? Well, maybe nothing so sophisticated, but at least fly some kites about some wild brainstorms? Like most ponderings that we stretch far, there may not be much accuracy to what I muse, but I’m going to go ahead anyway.

We were warned last night on the news that gas prices would take a significant jump today. People were advised to go fill up their pumps prior to sunrise today, and footage of lineups building at gas stations were evident all over. I was one of those people who filled up last night. The psychology of it all, the resulting feelings I had from filling my tank at a deliberately chosen time, surprised me both last night and well into today.

I was giddy. Yes, that may be the appropriate word to describe my state. Yes, despite, these troubling economic times, I was giddy and rather satisfied with myself for being up with the news and acting upon the information. This morning, while driving to work, and hearing how gas prices were steadily rising, and watching cars line up at stations, I was elated I wasn’t one of them. Indeed, I thought, I got a great deal! What a bargain! Instead of paying close to 1.40/L, I paid 1.23/L just last night.

I’m ashamed. 1.23 is not anywhere near cheap, affordable, nor reasonable, but here I was celebrating that fact. May the ‘powers-to-be/powers-that-are’ take note of this sentiment and use this kind of psychology to manipulate and even ‘gouge’? May marketing and advertising take advantage of this consumer weakness and strategically fluctuate pricing to make us think we’re getting a steal when they are actually stealing from us?

Of course, now I notice my foolishness and I am not giddy, not ecstatic, not thinking that I was one of the lucky ones. But, admittedly, just momentarily, I did feel satisfied with my purchase. So if those forces up high can get many consumers, at one time or another, to just even fleetingly feel a short moment of impulsive satisfaction at believing a high price is actually a bargain, to celebrate even just briefly because they see others being ripped off more, then those forces up there must be mighty rich.

Again, this is more or less a conspiracy theory, so really there is not much actual truth to the reasons suggested for the price increases. But, perhaps it can also be worthwhile as a piece of self-reflection, self-criticism, at myself.

I filled up my tank opportunistically last night, but this morning, today, I still feel like I’m running on empty.

-Patrick Law

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Filed under Detours: Psychology of Driving, News