retailer on hunger strike loses store

Court gives Shell control of unit after Shahbazi failed to pay taxes, violated court orders.

Who needs to listen to a court ruling when you can just starve yourself?

That’s what Marina, Calif. Shell retailer Mehdi Shahbazi thought. The franchisee went to court with Shell as early as September 2000, when he claimed that the oil company was conspiring against him and being discriminatory with its pricing practices.

When the court found no evidence of this happening, Shahbazi unleashed a series of appeals and other suits, all of which were settled in Shell’s favor. The oil company, after coming under an assault of false charges, tried to cease Shahbazi’s store, citing he also failed to pay taxes on income earned at the station for years, which violated his lease. He also failed to pay court-ordered amounts to Shell and he violated several court orders.

So in July, when the company tried to regain their store, Shahbazi did what any retailer would do: he went on a three-month hunger strike, falsely claiming that Shell was taking his property away simply because he placed a sign in his store decrying “big oil’s unearned profit.”

Since then, the strike has taken its toll on Shahbazi, who was recently admitted into the hospital for depravation. Shell has gone on record since, expressing its condolences to Shahbazi while standing its ground.

“We are concerned for Mr. Shahbazi’s health and that he has chosen to harm himself,” a Shell spokesperson told Convenience Store Decisions. “We feel that we have acted responsibly in this situation. In fact the courts have ruled in our favor in every case that Mr. Shahbazi has brought against us. We hope that Mr. Shahbazi will reconsider his actions.”

In August, the judge issued that Shell properly terminated the lease with Shahbazi, and ordered he be off the property by September. Since then, Shell has reclaimed the property granted to it by the court.

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