Here’s a practical question attached to this fine philosophical matter:
Are you willing to spend a few cents a gallon more to avoid trudging several miles to get a better price at a different gas station in a different neighborhood? Do you do that regularly, or only when circumstances make you feel more reluctant than usual to have to drive around to get the best price?
This afternoon I have to traipse to the Mayo Clinic. At that time of day, it will be an hour’s drive each way: Two hours of doing battle on the cutthroat streets of Phoenix for the privilege of spending 15 minutes with my doctor in hopes that she can send me to the right specialist.
My car doesn’t have enough gas to get out to the far side of Scottsdale. And if you think prices at the local QT are exorbitant, you ain’t seen nuttin’ till you see how much a ritzy-titzy market like Scottsdale will bear. So I need to buy gas before heading out there.
Rationality suggests that I should drive down to the slum Costco that I normally habituate, because — given the emptiness of its customers’ pockets — that Costco sells the cheapest gas in town. While there, I could pick up the several items I need from that honored store.
This of course would require me not only to drive several miles in the opposite direction from the Mayo but also to get out of the car and walk across the parking lot, something I’m not fond of doing in that sketchy shopping center. The fewer trips I have to make there, the better: both because staying out of Costco means keeping more money in my own pocket and because it really isn’t the best of all possible shopping experiences.
Between here and the Mayo, only slightly out of my way, resides another Costco: a much more upscale Costco. They have more goods of the sort I covet, and one feels no need to pack heat while strolling from the car to the door. And… I have to get something for this weekend’s potluck. Lately I’ve found the Costco closest to me — the downscale Costco — rarely has anything very appealing. The last time I was there, they didn’t even have the standard Costco quinoa salad, to say nothing of decent bakery. Chances are good — very good, I’ll bet — that the Paradise Valley Costco will have a much better selection of bakery.
To be safe, I need to buy gas now; not drive all the way to the Mayo, halfway back, and another ten miles up to the fancy Costco and back.
There is a QT right around the corner. They extort stupefying amounts of money from their customers, because the station is on the only road that passes through the Dreamy Draw, carrying commuters from Moon Valley and points north down to their jobs in central and downtown Phoenix.
The Costco at Paradise Valley Mall also charges more for gas, because it’s conveniently close to Tatum Blvd, which bears commuters from North Phoenix and Scottsdale. But by the end of the day — around 5 p.m. — the lines will be out to the main drag, I will be tired and unhappy, and I surely will not feel like standing in line and pumping gas. And it’s questionable whether I can get all the way out to the Mayo and then up to that Costco on a quarter-tank of gas.
I’m thinking it may be worth the cost (four to eight cents a gallon) to fill up — or maybe partially fill up — at the nearby QT, so that I don’t have to drive down south to get gas now, nor take a chance that the amount in the tank will take me halfway to Payson and back with enough left over to get down to the cheaper Costco.
That way, I would have the option of not going to the nicer Costco on the way home from the doctor’s office (should one not happen to feel like shopping for anything by then), and I could be certain that the car wouldn’t run out of gas. And I wouldn’t have to pump gas late in the afternoon, when I will hate it even more than I normally hate it. Which is a lot.
So we have two choices:
- Drive to the dumpy Costco now, some miles south of the ‘hood and get gas for as much as eight cents a gallon less than it costs anywhere else.
- Whip around the corner to the overpriced QT, eat the gouge, and acquire at least enough gas to get to east Scottsdale and back…for a whole lot more than a fair price
I’m leaning toward the QT. The savings in time and aggravation would be worth paying a couple dollars more.
And that would be “convenience cost.”