Gary Graham – ROAD TREKKER

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Thursday, February 22, 2018
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Baja Gasoline with perks?
Before Mex 1 (Benito Juarez Transpeninsular Highway or Carretera Transpeninsular Benito Juarez) was completed in 1973, gasoline was a concern for Baja travelers. Back then, the availability and quality of both gas and diesel were of major concern.

When driving down the narrow, two-lane asphalt ribbon of a road, the best advice was “never pass a gas stop because of the scarcity of gasoline.” Many were just that — gas stops — where in some cases the gas was poured out of a 5-gallon can or pumped from a barrel.

highlightingthebraveHIGHLIGHTING THE BRAVE new world of gasoline stations in Mexico is Grupo ORSAN.

Over the years, a government-granted monopoly of Pemex stations started popping up, and over time, shortages and occasionally contaminated fuel happened less frequently.

Several years ago, the Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto promised to eliminate the Pemex monopoly and it was finally implemented a year ago on January 1, 2017. The result was angry crowds, unhappy and fearful of shortages and higher prices. This was reported in my Road Trekker article on January 11, 2017 titled “It's the economy stupid…” John Carville 1992:

When I drove down the peninsula in June of last year, I didn’t notice much of a difference in the service stations, nor did I see anything that reflected a change. It seemed like ‘business as usual.’

However, on my frequent flights back and forth throughout the summer and fall, there were signs of change. Mark Rayor of Jen Wren Sportfishing sent me a photo of a Pemex Station sign with the prices marked in large numbers.

“First time I’ve ever seen prices of fuel advertised like this in all the years I’ve been living here,” Rayor marveled.

Highlighting the brave new world of gasoline stations in Mexico is Grupo ORSAN. According to their website, they operate 145 service stations in the states of: Baja California Sur, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, San Luis Potosi, Guanajuato, Queretaro, Hidalgo, State of Mexico, Veracruz, Tabasco, Chiapas, Campeche and Quintana Roo and at the end of 2017, Grupo ORSAN signed an Alliance with the Exxon - Mobil Company to operate its stations in the Bajío region under the Mobil brand.

Four of their stations in the greater Los Cabos area are easy to spot with their big Red O trademark and the Pemex name. And all their employees wear spiffy green T-shirts and caps that sport the “Red O” as well.

However, what caught my eye was the “gas rewards card” that offered points for the purchase of gasoline products which can be redeemed for items listed on the card.

Orsan gives out prizes in other ways besides reward points. When they first opened in the spring of 2017, they raffled off a car and other big-ticket items like televisions as an introduction to their stations. Raffle tickets were given out with gasoline purchases. Unfortunately, my tickets weren’t chosen.

Of interest is the fact that Orsan was a major sponsor of a dorado, tuna, and wahoo fishing tournament held in November with a purse of $22,000 USD that was split among the top three winners; the cost was only $195 to enter. More events are promised in 2018.

HOWEVER WHAT CAUGHT my eye was the “gas rewards card” that offered points for the purchase of gasoline products which can be redeemed for items listed on the card.

If you spend time in Los Cabos and need gasoline, it might be worth your while to ask for an Orsan Rewards Card to get in on the perks. “Dar me un tarjeta, por favor!”

On my return home in the Roadtrek last November, there were a few additional revelations regarding individual stations. The peso-to-dollar exchange rate varied at service stations ranging from bank rate to much less, and somewhere in between.

The cost of fuel per liter varied as well. When questioned, one answer I received was that stations in remote areas were being charged higher delivery fees. In my case, I usually selected stations that were more remote because they were usually less crowded. However, that strategy should be revisited since larger towns may offer lower prices along with other perks to compete.

I remember a time when many San Diegans drove to Tijuana because fuel was so much cheaper in Baja than it was in the U.S. Now that has changed —  the price of both diesel and gasoline are about the same in the two places.

Hopefully, the deregulation will encourage competition that will result in savings and of course additional perks for the many visitors who choose to drive Mex 1.

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