Faith-Fueled and Furious

At a jail in Valparaiso, Ind., there’s a rebel musician who’s probably wishing he’d sung just a little bit louder.

At a church in San Francisco, there’s a holy man wishing he and his flock had prayed just a little bit harder.
And in a backwater town just outside Kansas City, Mo., there’s a new owner of a used car who’s thinking he should have taken the free gas instead of the free gun. 

Consumers and retailers nationwide are firing on every conceivable piston in hopes of driving some sort of change in a country where gas is retailing at about $4 per gallon, and the eccentrics among them are resorting to everything from sin and symbolism to swindles and supplications in their seemingly futile quest.

Businesses are taking notice, too, offering short- and long-term promotions aimed at boosting sales traffic that has been lagging in recent months.

Automotive giants Chrysler and Suzuki are offering programs to ease the cost of fuel, while other manufacturers are touting their vehicles’ miles-per-gallon as marketing tools. Chrysler’s “Let’s Refuel America” campaign is promising to defray fuel costs and lock consumers in at $2.99 per gallon for a three-year period, while Suzuki is offering customers a
“Free Gas for Summer” program that promises 0% interest and free gas for three months.

C-store chains and other retailers are offering promotions, too. Rutter’s Farm Stores is offering four customers 15 gallons of free gas each week for three years as part of a chain-wide promotion, while a c-store and speedway in Pennsylvania recently teamed to dole out free gas gift cards to a number of race fans. The list of promotions is endless.

But a roundup of the novel notions and ebullient epiphanies that have bubbled up in mainstream America in recent months offers a telling glimpse at just how frustrated, faithful, desperate or deviant the masses have become:

•In Arvada, Colo., police are searching for two men who robbed a convenience store while wearing brightly colored thong underwear to cover their faces. The two unarmed men demanded cash from the clerk and fled with an undisclosed sum of money.

•At a used car dealership in Butler, Mo., the business owner offered buyers a choice between a handgun and $250 in free gas when they purchased a new car. About 8 in 10 customers chose the gun over the gas.

•To show the community it feels the burden, too, Baltimore-area church Middle River Baptist hosted a Gas Buy Down and used $3,000 to pay 50 cents of the per-gallon price for 5,000 gallons of gas on June 2. Organizers wanted to drop the price below $3 a gallon, but they couldn’t go head-to-head with the costs in that market.

•In another faith-fueled demonstration, a San Francisco choir director and community organizer staged a public “pray-in” in hopes of easing the hellish gas prices. Organizer Rocky Twyman told the San Francisco Chronicle, “God is the only one we can turn to at this point.”

•A musician in Valparaiso, Ind., climbed onto a convenience store with his guitar and a megaphone and belted out a song he wrote, “Price Gouge’n,” to protest the high gas prices. Police cut his performance short and carted him off to jail for criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct.

•In Florida, Republican lawmakers are trying to create a gas-money refund program to allow commuters to write off the cost of a fill-up for their daily ride to work.

• Radio stations across the country are having a field day with promotions to alleviate high gas prices, with some chipping gas down to per-gallon prices that match their station identification numbers, such as $1.06 per gallon offered by 106.1FM in the New York market. At another radio station, a DJ scoured area gas stations and randomly offered to fill up gas tanks for free.

• And finally, at a gas station near Saint Louis, a storeowner a posted gas-price sign with the following prices: $3.79 for regular gas, $3.94 for plus gas, and “LOL and nine-tenths” for v-power gas.


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