Oil Companies Cheat Selves Out of $170 Million Annually

The oil companies could make an extra $170 million annually if the rounded the trailing 9/10 cent on gas prices up to the next cent, the folks at WiseGeek calculate, at an average cost to the consumer of 45 cents. It’s unclear why they don’t do this since, as the piece points out, nobody pays attention to that 9/10 anyway.

This, naturally, brings to mind “Superman 3,” in which Gus Gorman, played by the late comedian Richard Pryor, manipulates computer software to steal the fraction of a cent out of every employee’s salary that was earned but not paid into his own bank account.

Come to think of it, maybe the negative critical reaction to that movie has put the oil companies off the scheme.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. jeff b says:

    I think you meant “million”

  2. James Joyner says:

    That’s what I had in the lede, but I mistyped it in the headline. I’m used to economics numbers being expressed in billions….

  3. William d'Inger says:

    It’d probably cost more than that to reprogram the price signs.

  4. James Joyner says:

    It’d probably cost more than that to reprogram the price signs.

    Could be — although that’s just a one time expense.

  5. Jim says:

    We see that behavior all the time…how many things are priced $19.99? The reason for the 9/10s of a cent was to convince people that the price was a penny cheaper.

  6. Wayne says:

    It is basic marketing principal. As stated, most don’t’ pay attention to the .9. That is why they tack that on. That is why most things are price along the line of $19.99, $28.99, $14,980.98, etc.

  7. Wayne says:

    The reason is people see the price of $14,980 and their minds believe it is closer to $14,000 instead of the actual $15,000

  8. Gollum says:

    It isn’t so much that $2.999 isn’t closer to $2.00, it’s just that $2.999 is less than $3.00, thereby avoiding the mental barrier and attendant alarmist headlines attached to the round dollar price.

    Come to think of it, if you are correct that consumers don’t pay attention to the $.009, you might just as easily have titled the post “Oil Companies Cheat Consumers Out of $1.53 Billion.”

  9. jpe says:

    Not Superman III by way of Office Space? What the hell is wrong with you?

  10. Wyatt Earp says:

    “It’s pretty brilliant . . . They did it in Superman III. Underrated movie, actually.” – Michael Bolton, Office Space

    Actually, Donny’s Discount Gas uses 8.10. See also, The Simpsons

  11. Someone appreciates Superman III. Richard Pryor had no business being in a superhero movie, but it was fun. Although the supercomputer turning the woman into a robot creeped me out seeing it as a kid.

    Truly the worst Superman movie was IV. No villain should have fingernails that long.

  12. Dave Schuler says:

    Think how much more they stand to gain if pennies are eliminated (as I frequently hear suggested).