Perhaps it's not just gasoline users that oil companies are squeezing -- station owners might be locked in the vice as well. Bob Oyster, a Shell station owner in San Francisco, is making a statement to Shell and to his customers to let them know what he thinks of it.

To hear Bob tell it, Shell has made it impossible to stay in business. After owning his station for 22 years, he's returning it to Shell at the end of the month. Shell charges him more for gas in San Francisco than in other parts of the Bay, where he also owns stations, but won't let him buy gas anywhere else. They have also raised his rent by leaps and bounds. Five years ago he fought to keep his rent at $6,000 per month based on real estate values, when Shell wanted $13,000. This year they again requested $13K. Shell says that's what the market is worth. Oyster says "I got fed up." What did he do? He raised his gas prices to well over $4 a gallon, and ever since, he hardly sees a customer.

"It makes a statement," he said, "and I guess when people see that price they also see the Shell sign right next to it." Like other independent owners, Oyster makes his money off the convenience store extras, but his lot is so small he doesn't have room for much other than candy and cigarettes. He believes oil companies are trying to squeeze out the independents, but Shell says most of its stations are independently-owned and that that number is increasing. "I'm going out with a bang,'' says Oyster. "And I don't care if I don't pump a gallon on the last day.'' And he probably won't: the Chevron across the street sells gas for 70 cents less.

Thanks for the tip, Mike!

[Source: SF Gate]