Gas distributor Arkansas Valley says that it has seen a 10-15% drop in sales to some Missouri and Oklahoma stations following Chavez's United Nations speech where he called Bush "the devil."
"We started losing business at our stores," company president Weister Smith told the Tulsa World newspaper. "Some of our independent retailers came to us and asked us to make a change away from Citgo. Some of them actually covered up their Citgo signs."
Citgo had already announced plans to stop selling their fuel at 1,900 Citgo-branded stations in 10 states, including Oklahoma, by March. But some independent retailers are afraid consumers will start going elsewhere if they don't speed up the switch to another brand.
However, Duff Thompson, president of Fiesta Mart, dismissed these complaints by explaining that rumors of a boycott of Citgo stations started soon after the speech, leading him to switch brands at eight of the company's Tulsa stations.
"We have some stores showing declines," Thompson said. "But I wouldn't attribute it all to the Chavez situation."
And it's important for consumers to know that boycotting Citgo stations will hurt the station owners more than Chavez or the Venezuelan company. "It's not Citgo they're getting back at," Vance McSpadden, executive director of the Oklahoma Petroleum Association said. "It's that independent businessman who has got his livelihood invested in that business. That's who you're punishing."
[Source: AP via MSNBC]