As fuel prices soar in Lawrence and everywhere, here’s how to spot price gouging

Share this post or save for later

Filling up the gas tank is no longer an option for some drivers these days.

College student Brittney Jackson, 19, finished pumping just more than a half-tank of gas into her car in the hopes the $30 she spent would last four days commuting between her home in Lawrence and job in Ottawa.

“It’s ridiculous,” Jackson said of gas prices Tuesday morning. “I cut back on eating out and going to the gym and stuff like that.”


At Fast Track, 2031 Louisiana St., manager Khus Thakur said although the business opened in early February, it has only sold fuel since Feb. 26. Thakur said fuel costs sometimes go up twice per day. And when the price goes up, that doesn’t always translate to more profits. 

“Even with this price, like 8 cents, that’s all our margin,” Thakur said.

During a price check of four fuel stations on 23rd Street from the intersection of 23rd and Louisiana through the east end of town on Tuesday morning, Quik Trip and Stanley James Smokehouse were charging $3.799 per gallon for regular unleaded fuel. At $3.899, the more expensive gallons on that stretch were found at Kwik Shop and Fast Track.

All four businesses’ regular unleaded fuel and diesel, if listed, matched the price on their electronic marquee. However, the electronic marquee at Stanley James Smokehouse, 1500 E. 23rd St., was offering customers who bought a car wash with regular unleaded fuel on Tuesday morning a 20-cent-per-gallon discount, bringing the price down to $3.599.

Fuel discounts, such as fuel points earned at grocery stores, do not factor into posted prices.

Tricia Masenthin/Lawrence Times photos The electronic marquee shown on the left at Stanley James Smokehouse, 1500 E. 23rd St., was offering customers who bought a car wash with regular unleaded fuel on Tuesday morning a 20-cent-per-gallon discount, bringing the price down to $3.599. The price without a car wash, at right, was $3.799.

Click here for a larger version of this map/better mobile view.

The website can help find the lowest prices in town, but the site relies mostly on user reports that might not be the latest updates.

Where to report pricing issues

In Kansas, gas pump compliance complaints are handled through the Department of Agriculture. Heather Lansdowne, a spokesperson for the department, said via email that pump price must match the station’s posted price with one exception.

“Some stations may offer a ‘cash price’ which is lower than the credit/debit price. If they do so, that must be clearly stated as the cash price; but the price on the pump may default to the credit/debit price. Cash must be paid up front.”

Consumers who’ve been charged a different pump price than the price advertised can file a complaint with the department using the form at this link, Lansdowne said.

Price gouging complaints, Lansdowne said, are handled through the Kansas Attorney General’s office. In this fact sheet from the department, price gouging is defined as “a dramatic increase in prices for goods or services in short supply following an emergency situation or disaster.”

Lansdowne provided this example to distinguish the two from each other: “For example, if the price should have been $3.69 and you were charged $3.89, report that with our complaint form. But if a gas station decided to start charging $10/gallon, and you suspect price gouging, that should be reported to the AG’s office.”

Consumers who suspect price gouging in Kansas can contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-432-2310 or visit their website at this link.

Click here for a larger version of this chart/better mobile view.

What drivers can do to help improve fuel efficiency

The Department of Agriculture recommends these tips to get the most out of your fuel:

  • Slow down. Use your cruise control to maintain a steady speed.
  • Remove unnecessary items from your vehicle to lighten the load and burn less fuel.
  • Check your tire pressure. Keeping your tires inflated properly can improve fuel efficiency by as much as 3.3%. Properly inflated tires are also safer and have a longer life.
  • Keep a level foot. Don’t race your engine or accelerate rapidly from a stop. When a traffic light turns green, for example, remove your foot and wait for the vehicle to start moving on its own before gently pushing the gas.
  • Keep your vehicle in peak condition by following its regular maintenance schedule.
  • Plan trips and best routes ahead of time.
  • Carpool with a buddy.
Don’t miss a beat … Click here to sign up for our email newsletters

Click here to learn more about our newsletters first

Tricia Masenthin (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

Click here to access more community resources

Previous Article

Just Food director to join Heartland Community Health Center

Next Article

Free State High School assistant principal to retire