Bloomfield BP Station Relies on Old Friends

BP then and now.jpgBP isn’t the most popular brand these days, and more than 630,000 people have joined a Boycott BP page on Facebook. But the BP station at the corner of Broad Street and Bay Avenue in Bloomfield is weathering the crisis due to the fact that it knows most of its customers by name. Agolia & Sons opened as an American gas dealer in the mid-1950’s. American became Amoco, which merged with BP in 1998, and the Amoco name was phased out in 2001, but if you Google Agolia they still come up as an Amoco in most listings.
“We’re a dying breed: a station that fixes cars,” says Johnny Agolia, who runs the station. “People are supporting us. They aren’t taking it out on us.” His father Michael (pictured pumping gas in 1967) is the owner.

Indeed, as if to prove it, a car pulled in and Johnny Agolia greeted the driver — who comes from Roseland to fill up — by name. “My father was a 6 to 6 man,” Agolia says. “He worked from 6 to 6 and he slept from 6 to 6.”
Inside the station are a slew of fact sheets sent by BP’s public relations department. On the window is a huge BP sign with the headline, “The Gulf Oil Spill Response.”
gulf oil response .jpgPeople do sometimes ask or comment on the spill, Agolia says, but most of the time it’s “Johnny, how are you?”
Today Agolia’s BP station was selling regular gas at $2.559, four pennies cheaper than the Exxon across the street. He says he hasn’t seen a real drop-off in business — because of the customer relationship.
“Don’t take it out on the small guy like us,” he says. “Everybody has a right to make an honest living.”
Meanwhile, just minutes ago, BP agreed to set aside $20 billion for oil spill claims.

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  1. Is this a part of BP’s 50 million dollar PR campaign?
    Love that Caddy in the old picture (I think that’s the emblem)… Ah, big ‘ol American Cars…..

  2. I have no problem boycotting a company or a product that you take issue with. However, in this case I feel differently about a local business suffering for something they had no hand in causing. I will go out of my way to throw them my business.

  3. The you don’t believe in boycotts. There is always someone local someplace who’s not at fault who’s hurt by a boycott.

  4. And isn’t that the point of the boycott? That the local business suffers, applies pressure on its corporate supplier and the world is a better place?
    I go to a few different gas stations, but would probably drive past a BP unless I saw that I had only a few miles to go till empty– at that point all bets are off.
    But since some stations are corporate owned and some not, it’s hard to choose.
    I boycott Abercrombie and Fitch. Have for years. That’s the only company I stay away from.

  5. The next time I need an oil change, I’ll have to look at their rates.
    I don’t want to buy BP gas any time soon, but will gladly support the local owners in other ways if I can.

  6. It’s incredibly short-sighted to not buy gas from a local BP branded station because of this spill.
    All of the major oil companies have propagated environmental disaster. If you did research, you could take issue with nearly any of the big oil corps.
    BP is a debacle. This spill is a tragedy. But the local guy who signed a contract to buy gas from them and use their branding doesn’t deserve to lose his livelihood over this.
    Want to make a difference? Use less oil. Get involved in environmental activism, donate some money to a good organization helping with the cleanup, write some letters to Congress. But don’t stop buying gas from a good local businessman.

  7. A boycott of sellers of gasoline under the BP branding may give you some satisfaction, but it has almost zero impact on BP. They own a very small fraction of stations selling under BP trademark and all their income comes from finding and processing petroleum. The boycott only hurts the independent local businesses running their own stations.

  8. I have also been avoiding BP stations since the magnitude of the spill (and BP’s corporate recklessness) became clear, including Agolia’s.
    As a proponent of supporting local small business I’m sorry that Agolia is in the cross-fire, but I refuse to reward BP’s criminal negligence with my money. Besides, the collateral damage that Agolia may suffer as a result of any boycott pales in comparison to the ruined livelihoods suffered by the people of the gulf coast, and the irreversible damage to the ecosystem down there.
    I’ll run out of gas before I purchase another drop from BP.

  9. Yea ROC,
    Get involved in environmental activism!! Write some letters to Congress!!!
    THAT’LL SHOW ‘EM!!!!
    the prof is still waiting for his wind-mill (excuse me, turbine…) powered car and his new job in the green economy.
    I heard someone speaking about this last night…

  10. “They own a very small fraction of stations selling under BP trademark and all their income comes from finding and processing petroleum. ”
    uh. no. That’s the source of all their expenses. They derive all their income from selling the product. An independently owned station buys the product from BP or a distributor who eventually buys it from BP. If you don’t patronize a BP station they’ll sell less and buy less from BP.

  11. They’re on my corner, so I’ve noticed that their price drop seemed to accompany the spill spread. They used to be in lockstep with their EXXon neighbor.
    Other BPs have had higher prices. BTW the EXXon seemed to go downhill when it took over the Union franchise.

  12. The ironic thing is I am not even sure that — despite the branding — the gas you get at a particular station always comes from that refinery. It’s a confusing business, much like hospitality where sometimes a company owns properties bearing various (competing) hotel brands.
    Did you know that the Texaco stations in this area (noticed they’re all gone?) were served by Shell, not Texaco, and rebranded in 2002-2004.
    Also in 2004, the Russian-owned Lukoil bought a company called Schlotzmeyer Bros., who owned most of the Mobil franchises in New Jersey and Pa., which is why that brand has all but disappeared from our area.
    It was interesting to see the Esso station across Broad street in that photo, which is now the Garden Center. Esso became Exxon, which — as mentioned — is across Bay Avenue from Agiola’s.

  13. As if any of the gas giants are “less evil” than the next. 20 years ago it was Exxon, in another 20, it’ll be someone else.
    Hell, Shell was supplying South Africa’s white apartheid regime with oil despite an anti-apartheid embargo two decades ago.
    The oil spill is merely a sympton of a larger problem–our complete and utter dependence on fossil fuels.
    If we really want to protest, we have to make a marked effort to take public transportation, or walk, or bike when possible.
    As previous posters have stated, screwing over small businesses isn’t gonna do a hell of a lot except put even more Americans out of work.

  14. Think of it this way… If you completely stop buying from BP this means they will have less funds to clean up their mistake and pay off the people harmed in the Gulf. If BP goes under and there are not enough funds to pay off all the claims and clean up the shores who do you think will end up paying for it? The tax payers so I say continue about your business and stop hurting the small time owners who run the BP gas stations, they had nothing to do with the spill…

  15. “That the local business suffers, applies pressure on its corporate supplier and the world is a better place?”
    Most gas station operators would absolutely love to apply pressure on their corporate suppliers, but that won’t happen in this world. If gasoline retailers (usually lessees, and many times the oil company is the lessor) complain about anything that comes down from the supplier, they are told in no uncertain terms to shut up or get out. That is the clout big oil companies have. Of course that didn’t stop our wonderful wussies in Washington from stopping the Exxon Mobil merger, nor did anyone much get upset when BP took over Amoco. What you are seeing with BP is corporate arrogance that used to be the hallmark of Big Banks, Big Auto Companies, and Big Railroads: two of whom are eating dirt and the third of which is under it. I don’t often buy BP gas as a rule, but I wouldn’t boycott the Agolia’s because they are locked into selling that particular product.

  16. Ah, okay.
    So there is nothing consumers can do… We are mere servants to BIG {insert your favorite multi-national here}.

  17. Let me give you an example, prof: the other day I called Continental’s Custoner Service line to get an answer to a question I could not find in their Website’s FAQ’s or help files, nor could their inane, Stepford-based “Ask Alex” Virtual Assistant even comprehend the subject about which I was inquiring. So I called the 800 number expecting the usual “all our attendants are busy with other customers” and the 10-minute wait that usually ensues. This time, it was different. One of Alex’s virtual voice-mail assistants told me that due to the high call volume, my call would not be answered. Period. It reminded me of The New Yorker cartoon from back in the days of Rolodexes where the harried businessman is shouting into his phone “How about never? Is never good for you?”
    Now tell me that any of these companues give a large rodent’s keister…

  18. Just so long Conan as you don’t boycott Continental as a result. Or the guy who records the voice for “Alex” might be out of a job, and after all, it’s not that guy’s fault.

  19. … THAT was a long way to go Conan— tell you what? Why don’t you just get off the grid, since no one cares about you.
    You don’t need these companies, really, they don’t give a Yellow-bellied Marmot’s keister about you.

  20. ROC, if you don’t wish to buy your gas at the BP station, fine. BP’s petroleum will just come out of the refinery and go the whatever station you are patronizing. Gasoline is a fungible commodity and is traded around and moved to wherever the demand is. No sweat from BP, but bankruptcy for the franchisee you boycotted. BP, as well as other major oil companies, have been divesting themselves of the ownership burden of retail filling stations.
    If you want to do something useful stop using oil products.

  21. And presumably one pays a fee to BP to be branded as their gas station? If BP’s name becomes mud, perhaps Mr. Agolia will ditch BP (and no longer pay the franchise fee) and become something else instead.

  22. Easy Spectator, not need to call names, I’m not sure what a “fungible commodity” is, but ROC ain’t one.
    A wee bit pedantic, yes. But a “fungible commodity”?
    Can’t we all just get along?

  23. Reading past the headlines and attempts at politicizing the issue, BP has actually responded quite well here. They’ve stood up and accepted responsibility, have always vowed to pay for all of the damage, have never attempted to hide behind precedent legislation, have absorbed all of the political attacks, have allowed the politicians to “take credit” for things BP had previously agreed to, and the CEO has been front and center from the get-go and has never shunned the public’s glaring eye. All in all, a pretty responsible reaction, I think.

  24. And presumably one pays a fee to BP to be branded as their gas station? If BP’s name becomes mud, perhaps Mr. Agolia will ditch BP (and no longer pay the franchise fee) and become something else instead.
    Depends on the terms of the franchise contract doesn’t it? I imagine some of these have non-compete clauses.
    While I don’t think I’ll be buying gas from BP anytime soon, I understand this is really only symbolic. BP will continue to make their millions extracting oil and selling it to someone else.
    Also, BP will never be in danger of going bankrupt. The British goverment would never allow it, given how many pension funds are invested in the stock.
    I actually have been avoiding BP for some years now, after my sister’s car got a tankful of mostly water once (quite like what happened at the Russian station in the Bloomfield rest stop) at a BP station.

  25. BP delivers its oil to refineries around the globe. Its oil is mixed in with the oil of other major exploration and production companies. The consolidated oil is refined into various products, most of which is sold brandless on the wholesale market. Oil that comes out of a BP well is not necessarily turned into ¬†BP¬†gasoline, ¬†which is more likely a mixture of BP detergents blended with generic gasoline and sold through independent franchisees. ¬†As a previous poster noted, BP has taken great effort to exit from downstream retail marketing, and as a company owns very few retail outlets. Self-righteous boycotters are missing trees for the forest. There is very little you can do as a consumer, other than consume less. Period. ¬† If you refuse to buy gasoline from the local BP station, you punish the innocent little guy more often than not. If you can’t bring yourself to buy his gas, at least try to offset your misdirected action by buying his food or having your car serviced by him. But don’t punish him and then turn around and buy someone else’s gas, regularly change your oil, fly on an airplane, take a cruise, or even heat your home with oil next winter. That would be hypocritical. ¬†BP oil is refined wholesale into lubricants, kerosene, jet and bunker fuel, and heating oil. If you’re going to punish the corner station, you may as well look in the mirror and punish yourself too. ¬† ¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬†¬†

  26. In light of what I consider uneducated and thoughtless posts on this matter I would like to tackle this proposed boycott of BP fueling stations using basic economic logic and prove how futile such an attempt would be. I have outline my reasons below:
    1. The market for oil is perfectly competitive and firms in this market break even in the long run. That said, the price of gas to the consumer is unaffected by fluctuations in demand for individual firms within the market. More simply, the actions of consumers cannot dictate the price in this market. This should be considered as a counter argument to those who would argue for boycotting BP in favor of profit reduction.
    2. As Spectator correctly pointed out since gas is such a tradable commodity boycotting individual BP stations would have no impact on the profits of the company at large. If BP were to have excess supply of gas, they could simply sell it to a competing firm at market price.
    3. On a final note, if by some stroke of magic that defied all economic sense such a boycott would have an affect on BP’s profits on a firm wide scale such ramifications would only harm the cleanup effort. BP is the one bankrolling the entire cleanup, less money = less resources devoted to rescue and recovery!
    This is a bad situation that has environmental and economic consequences and BP has willingly owned up to their responsibility. What more does anyone want from them? Boycotting BP is a silly and nonsensical way of dealing with a problem that wise business and environmental professionals are already tackling and addressing.

  27. BP employs over 20 thousand Americans in addition to providing small business opportunities. A boycott could affect all of these people.
    Learning by mistakes is an uncomplicated way of looking at this disaster but it is exactly what both governments and the oil industry are doing.

  28. unmitigated gall,
    The lead article in today’s NYTimes should prove that you cannot find an oil/gas company that has not polluted and caused hell to fall on folks.
    Therefore, I await you to tell us how that wind-mill on the roof of your car works.

  29. “BP employs over 20 thousand Americans in addition to providing small business opportunities.”
    I wonder what the balance is when you deduct lost jobs in the gulf region due to the spill?

  30. prof,
    Wind mill blades are made of carbon fiber polymers, much of which is derived from oil and natural gas. I suppose we’ll have to find a different solution for unmitigated gall.

  31. I am not happy with BP but the guys at Agolia should not have to pay for their mistakes.I will continue to do business with them because they are one of those old-fashioned businesses that make living in Bloomfield a pleasure. They know me by name, my car is always fixed, never has to be taken back, they go out of their way to pick me up and take me home, and they treat me, a woman, with respect. One day I got in my car and rolled down the back window. It would not go up. It was 11 AM. I went directly to the BP. Dave, the manager, greeted me with his usual cheerful greeting, ordered the part and by 2 PM my car was fixed. I recommended a friend to them. She couldn’t keep her appointment because she was late for work and had to punch in. She called to let them know. They wanted to know where she worked and if they could pick up the car which they did. I’ll stay with these guys no matter what.

  32. “Solar Panels?”
    Made of silicon metal! Brilliant! Though there is that whole mining issue to contend with.

  33. commonsense,
    I guess the only environmentally pure method that unmitigated gall can use without fear is…..

  34. commonsense (or a little lack thereof) –
    Solar panels have a life span of approximately 30 years and the sun isn’t going to stop shining any time soon. There is also much research on developing new materials for solar cells.
    It seems that you think depending on a finite resource, such as oil, indefinitely is the way to go. How brilliant.

  35. A boycott of BP will never work. Instead, I would encourage everybody to hang the following sign on their lawn:

  36. tudlow,
    I made no such argument for dependence on oil, that’s your own bias getting in the way of objective judgment. But what I have observed is that our country has a dependence on fossil fuels that far exceeds most people’s understanding. I applaud people who take a principled stand, as much so when it’s in contrast to my own position as when it’s in agreement. However, I do have to question people who seem to “want” to make a principled stand, but do not adequately educate themselves on the issue at hand which usually results in misplaced action. I would love to see solar energy become more prevalent and I would welcome these new production methods to which you speak. I work in the industry and there is nothing remotely close to replacing silicon right now, which by the way, is very much a finite resource.

  37. You are just so gosh-darned irreverent, wallaroo (and why did you misspell the macropod I’ve always wondered..)
    Those signs always irritated my husband, too. So that is rather amusing.

  38. In light of the glaring negligence on the part of ALL oil companies and their emergency disaster planning (dead experts, the same generic plan that each one had, the lack of actual planning, the profit over safety emails) we need new legislation that sends these powers that be to prison until whatever eco disaster their bad decisions create is cleaned up.
    If I make a few bad decisions that effect 1 person negatively then I risk jail time. These monkeys made bad decision after bad decision, put them in writing, and are negatively effecting countless people – and get to go home to their mansions and retire without worry in a few years.
    If their own prison time were a factor in their decision making I’m pretty sure they’d put some effort beyond dollar signs going forward.

  39. Really, you work in the industry? What do you do?
    I appreciate your response and agree that people should be much more informed on how extensive our dependence on fossil fuels is as well as being much more informed on things like where the ubiquitous ingredient palm oil comes from. It’s rather an inconvenience and a lot of work to be informed about these matters, though, isn’t it?
    But what I fail to understand is why people of the conservative bent (and am I wrong to assume this includes you?) mock people’s interest in renewable energy, and yes, I admit, baby steps in moving toward renewable energy even if they are not as informed as you propose to be. Why not mock the people who drive giant SUVs and who own up to and are “proud” of their consumption of oil? Yes yes, I get it, it’s much more fun and cool to seek out hypocrisy and mock it instead of taking action and educating people like you probably could.

  40. I work in the finance industry as an industry expert in Basic Materials, including metals and chemicals. I have financed billions of dollars in helping these companies grow.
    As for my political “bent”, I have both conservative and progressive attitudes – I follow no script and increasingly, I think the platforms of both parties stink. That said, I do not mock people’s interest in renewables, I applaud it. But I think we need to understand where we are in that cycle so that we can come to a better understanding of how we use fossil fuels and the full purpose they are serving us.
    And as for SUVs, I really do hate them myself but I won’t mock anybody for choosing to drive one. My wife and I both drive 4-cylinder cars that exceed 35 mpg. She’s doesn’t love having to cram all three of our kids into the single back seat but we thought it was the right thing to do, economically and environmentally.
    So now you know a lot more about me than you ever wanted to.

  41. tudlow,
    Conservatives do not mock Renewable energy, they mock Liberals who think that Gov’t not the free market should dictate what/where Energy comes from.
    When solar/wind/tidal energy become cost effective to the likes of Coal and Oil people will switch. Until then, people will pay for the cheapest service/item on the market.

  42. Now if we only posted the true price of oil on our environment and economy we would be on a more even keel with alternative fuels.
    The finite resource of cheap oil is running out and the costs are going up sharply everyday. If we don’t find an alternative source of energy soon our way of life based on petroleum will decline quickly.

  43. Well, nice to meet you commonsense–thank you for your thoughtful reply. I have worked in science, genetics specifically, for 15 years and have recently left the field for science education. I’ve taken some courses in ecology and conservation biology and there is a special place in my heart for the wetland habitat including all of its denizens. I was not impressed with BP’s handling of the spill and felt that they were disturbingly dishonest with the amount of oil gushing into the Gulf. I don’t think we have even begun to understand the ecological ramifications of this catastrophe. I also do not trust any scientific studies, observations or conclusions of what’s going on in the Gulf unless it comes from an independent researcher at the university level.
    I applaud your automobile choice. We have a hybrid but also a minivan that we use for long trips and when we are driving around other children. A little hypocritical, yes, I know…..we’ll probably trade it in soon but I wish there was more of an effort on part of the auto industry to balance gas mileage and interior space.
    And this brings me to Kyle’s statement.
    You know, Kyle, I believe in balance and you worship at the altar of the free market. My family’s private business paid for the shirt on my back as well as my college and graduate school education so, yes, I see the virtues of capitalism. However, I find your views extreme and talking with you reminds me of the conversations I have had with people who believe in creationism and intelligent design. I have no problem with government incentive programs that promote sustainability, in fact, I think it’s wonderful. The free market approach does not work when it comes to the environment–the tragedy of the commons described by Garrett Hardin illustrates this point very nicely. And I think until there is pressure from the public and the government, energy corporations and businesses in general will continue to do what is the most cost effective for them (at the expense of the environment)–as they rightly should–and so I think your statement is bunk. Seriously, Atlas Shrugged is FICTION, okay?
    But let me ask you this, what capitalization rules do you follow? They are interesting.

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