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Building A Grass Roots Movement: The Billion Dollar Take-Down

Buzz Fuel

I got an email from a friend the other day. You know the kind … the pass-it-to-10-people chain-mail powerpoint presentation kind. This one’s plight was simple: Stop buying gas at selected gas stations to spark a price war that would push the price of gas down.

The Pitch

In Canada, PetroCan and Shell are a couple of big players. They’re named in the email. I know a lot of you come to Zoomstart from the US, the UK and Australia among other countries. You know who the targets would be in your corner of the bright blue planet¬†better than I would.

The whole idea behind this email is to pick a major gas company and stop buying gas from them. And just them. And of course, spread the word. Theoretically, they would then lower the price of gas to bring people back, and all the other gas stations would have to also lower their prices to compete.

And then everybody gets cheaper gas. Happily ever after.

Really?

No, not really. It’s a grand idea. It’s got buzz. And it’s an issue that strikes people because we’ve all gone to the pump, filled up, and swore at how it cost us 10 or 20 bucks more than the previous fill-up.

But from a business perspective, it’s an idea with a lot of holes:

  • Getting enough people on board to put the squeeze on. Very tough to do.
  • We have to wait out the target companies while all the other gas companies hose us by raising their prices.
  • They’d just sell their gas to the companies we were buying from because the demand is not going away, it’s just going elsewhere.

The list goes on.

Grass roots ideas can work. But they have to be backed up by solid fundamentals or else they just fizzle and die. Just because something has buzz, doesn’t mean it’s a solid idea. It just means that more people are going to hear about it.

If you really want to bring the price of gas down, buy less. Ride your bike. Walk. Buy a pogo stick. It’s not a billion dollar take-down, but you’ll save a couple bucks, get some exercise, and who knows …

It just might catch on.

Denouement
 

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6 Comments

  1. I have a bike, rollerblades, and legs! Ok i also have a car, hehe but it’s so much more fun riding a bike, taking walks, than sitting in my car (in traffic). It’s fine for long distances but to go to the store or something i prefer using the worlds’ first transporation method: legs. Well In 30 or 40 years from now, we probably won’t even be able to fill up our cars with gas (there won’t be anymore anyway), hopefully someone will have found a great idea and get enough people interested in it to make it work. I know in France they have taxi cabs running on compressed air, for something like 3 or 4 hours… air is free, gas is expensive and you know.. global warming! Buy less gas, and take more walks! :)

  2. Riding your bike, take a walk will surely save a few bucks, some exercise and help you to get to that recommended walking 10,000 paces everyday. (I read this somewhere but cant recollect where).

    Cheers and take care.

  3. Jon,

    I read about the compressed air car! I recall something about a “yoke” mechanism. It was really interesting.

    Robin,

    Walking is good. My grandfather had a stroke before he retired. He started walking 3 to 4 miles a day after that. I was just a kid so I had lots of energy and I’d go with him whenever I had the chance.

    Those were good walks. Great talks. Walking has a way of slowing us down just enough to enjoy the moments and the people we spend them with.

  4. Biking and walking – it all depends where you live. I’m lucky to live in a walking city – older, lots of sidewalks and real neighborhoods where houses can look kinda funky.

    I travel for my job and some places are just not made for walking. I once tried to walk from the hotel to a restaurant maybe a mile away – a 15-20 minute walk, no biggie and I COULDN’T! I attempted it – I walked along the road on the grass opposite to the direction of traffic and ended up being unable to cross this drainage ditch that ran under the road. Sigh. I had to walk back to the hotel to get the car.

    I wonder at how some people will drive when it’d be quicker to walk if you take into consideration the time it takes to start up a car, drive it and park it. Yeesh. I’ve been in towns where the site of me crossing the street is something akin to sighting, I dunno, Bigfoot. It’s like the pedestrian crosswalk is there just for show.

    It’s no wonder that I’ll be in no-sidewalk middle America and see evidence of the “obesity epidemic” while I’ll be in some place like Manhattan or Boulder and people are a healthy weight.

    I’ll get off the soapbox! I’m just tired of seeing people drive around and around looking for the “closest parking space” – save on door dings and gas – park a little further away and walk!

  5. Ms. Q,

    I grew up in a small town. It’s amazing how many people drive over to a friend’s place or whatever, and it’s only a five minute walk down the street.

  6. unless you’re quitting the use of the car, boycotting a particular brand will have no lasting effect.

    just like the price & wage controls instituted by nixon in the early 70s, the only thing they did was cause an sudden & dramatic increase in everything once they were removed.

    prices are going up because demand is going up while suppply isn’t. to reduce the price, you have to either increase the supply or reduce the demand.

    Since most oil companies buy their oil from the global market , there’s no point boycotting one particular gas station. Thats like boycotting one of the taps in your house to reduce your water bill!

    If you really felt the pinch about raising gas prices you shouldn’t drive as much. Or better still, you should sell your gas guzzling SUV and buy a more efficient sub-compact instead.

    Or you should buy stock in Exxon and cheer every time gas prices rise ;-)


 

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