A south Macon store’s sale on gasoline for the Fourth of July fueled tempers as hundreds of motorists tried to make it to the pumps before the 99 cent per gallon offer expired.
Temperatures reached the mid 90s by the time Z Fuels, near Interstate 75 on Hartley Bridge Road, started the sale at 2:30 p.m., about 30 minutes ahead of schedule.
“People were over here at like 1 p.m.,” owner Sohi Charania said. “We had regular customers and they wanted to pump their gas and go, for the regular price, $1.79, but people were already parked on the pumps and you can’t tell them to move their cars.”
Drivers began arguing with each other and someone called the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office so deputies would come help direct traffic.
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Richard Baker, 68, had been waiting to park his Ford Explorer at the pump.
He went inside to pay with cash, because paying with a debit or credit card would cost $1.09 per gallon.
“I done got cussed out trying to get in here and get some 99 cent gas,” said Baker, a retired Vietnam War veteran. “People out here struggling are acting like a maniac now ... They got a good price on gas if you really need it. ... Every little bit helps, you know. So I’m grateful.”
Two deputies and a sergeant directed traffic by the entrance to Z Fuels, blowing whistles, waving their arms and yelling for motorists to keep driving past the gas station.
“This is our third time going around, c’mon now,” a teenage boy said to a deputy from the passenger seat of a red Jeep.
“You’ll have to go around again,” the deputy said. “I don’t know what to tell you.”
A man in a white truck loaded with several small gas cans was ticketed for a traffic violation during the sale.
There was plenty of honking.
“It’s a good thing, but it’s just in a bad location,” Sgt. Chris Paul told The Telegraph. “You can’t get that many people in at one time. ... You just got to get in at the right time.
Denise Dinkins and her fiance, both bound for Savannah, filled up both of their cars during the hour and a half sale.
“It takes at least $25 to fill it up,” Dinkins said of her Toyota Corolla. “I only put $9.25 in it.”
Jake Jacobs waited for more than an hour to fill up his Suburban and a 60-gallon blue barrel he brought.
Deputies “sent me around two or three times,” Jacobs said, adding that he’d driven from near Jones County and wasn’t about to leave.
The barrel of gas would fill up the tank in his boat at half the cost.
“We planned to take the kids out on the boat at Lake Tobesofkee tonight,” Jacobs said. “Boats like gas.”
The store had 8,500 gallons of regular gasoline delivered Tuesday morning. It was running out of gas by the end of the sale.
Two minutes before 4 p.m., Charania walked up to the driver’s side of a car to let a Tiffany Wilsbach and her sister know they’d be the last car to fill up for 99 cents.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God!’” Wilsbach said. “We couldn’t believe it.”
Charania, of Fayetteville, bought the store three months ago, but there was no official grand opening.
He said he is able to buy gasoline for a cheaper price because his store is unbranded, but still would lose money from the promotional 99 cent sale.
“We’ll be able to tell in weeks or months, repeat clients will know that this is the station,” Charania said.
When asked if the sale went as planned, he said, “we ain’t doing this again. It was a mess.”