I had my mind blown last week. Was struck by lightning. Bonked on the noggin by an apple from the tree. You can insert your own worn cliché – all will prove true.
The event? The Competition Bureau reported that Canadian Tire Corp. had pleaded guilty to charges under the Competition Act for taking part in a "criminal price-fixing cartel" that had inflated gas prices in two cities in Eastern Ontario. This "cartel" included Pioneer Energy LP and Mr. Gas Ltd.
Canadian Tire, Pioneer Energy and Mr. Gas pleaded guilty to fixing prices in Kingston and Brockville between May and November 2007. Pioneer was hit with a $985,000 fine while Mr. Gas is set to pay out $150,000. Canadian Tire agreed to pay a $900,000 fine. According to a Competition Bureau press release, "Gas retailers or their representatives in these local markets phoned each other and agreed on the price they would charge customers for gasoline."
I was shocked. Stunned. Mortified.
You mean that's not the official procedure for calculating gasoline prices?
I always thought that was the norm. I mean, every Friday stations everywhere raise their fees to exactly the same price. Every holiday weekend, fuel prices rise to precisely the same rate. I always thought that "price fixing" was Latin for "gas pricing."
This is how I imagined gasoline prices are determined:
INT. VARIOUS BOARD ROOMS – MORNING
The heads of various gas companies do their weekly Thursday morning conference call.
CEO No. 1: So, what do you want to do to them this weekend?
CEO No. 2: Same thing we do to them every weekend?
The SOUND of LAUGHTER and CHUCKLING.
CEO No. 1: Seriously.
CEO No. 3: I don't know. How does $1.44 per litre sound?
CEO No. 2: Fours are bad feng shui.
CEO No. 1: Yeah, I'm not big on fours.
CEO No. 3: Okay, how about $1.53?
CEO No. 1: Works for me.
CEO No. 2: I'm happy.
CEO No. 3: Okay, $1.53 it is. I'll call all my guys and they'll call all their guys and it will go down the chain of command like this with everyone agreeing on a set price that varies a couple of cents here or there.
CEO No. 2: I will do likewise.
CEO No. 1: As will I.
CEO No. 3: This way all our prices will be pretty much identical. The consumer won't have any real choice.
ALL: It is agreed!
Are you now telling me that is not what happens?
Am I to believe that gas prices are reached through sheer chance and the free market? Sorry, I may look like I was born yesterday but there is no way that I am going to believe that gasoline prices are determined without some kind of collusion.
Things I'm more likely to believe determine gasoline prices:
- A mathematical equation. For instance: The Number of Children Brad and Angelina have adopted divided by three multiplied by two.
- Roulette wheel.
- Just a “feeling” that gasoline executives get. Something in the wind tells them “$1.25.”
- They take turns deciding. They’re not animals.
- Big Foot.
- Execs drop acid then hit the sweat lodge. Seven hours later… voila! Gas prices!
- Big Oil CEOs watch an episode of The Littlest Hobo and then do a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy “Thought Record” on their levels of depression and anxiety ranked between zero and 100 per cent. These are then added and divided. The result is the price gas will be this weekend.
- Their “Dark Lord” determines prices. On the day that a litre of premium unleaded costs $6.66, the world will end.
- The gas pumps themselves determine fuel prices.
- Oil company executives use the Mayan Calendar. Swimsuit Edition.
It may be that this is all an elaborate practical joke. That on April 1 the oil companies, the Competition Bureau and all the media outlets will jump up and go "April Fools!"
Until then I'm going with Big Foot.
Follow Andrew Clark on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy