TAMPA (FOX 13) - No consumer prices are more volatile than gasoline. Some stations change prices multiple times day; on Wall Street, the market value of unleaded fluctuates thousands of times a day.
It’s a roller coaster.
Financial gamesmanship aside, the gyrations stress family budgets. Gasoline is essential. And we are inundated with advertising telling us what today price is.
Tomorrow’s price, however, is a complete mystery that is beyond our comprehension and control.
But not anymore.
"Something needed to be done about it," said Steven Verona, who founded MyGallons.com.
Veron's company now allows consumers to pre-pay for gasoline in bulk. Users lock in prices at today’s rates, then redeem whenever they choose -- ideally when pump prices are higher.
Verona is essentially giving cost-conscious drivers access to what New York traders call “hedging.” Large transportation companies like the airlines and parcel delivery firms use hedging to stabilize their fuel costs -- a luxury most consumers do not have.
"It frustrated me that the average consumer didn't have that ability," he explained.
Verona said MyGallons has signed up thousands of people.
"It's simple,” he continued. “They save money and they know exactly what they're going to spend on gas."
David Solomon is one of those customers. He drives a bona fide gas guzzler, a hulking 1972 Oldsmobile 442 convertible. It thundered as it snaked the palm-lined avenues of Ft. Lauderdale.
Solomon acknowledges that driving his classic convertible was probably a lot more affordable when it was new.
"It was probably like 25 or 30 cents a gallon," he said.
(Actually, it was $.36, according to the federal government.)
Solomon stumbled on MyGallons while doing research for his business, Cost Containment Strategies. CCS consults businesses owners on reducing expenses.
"I was looking for a way to save my clients money,” he said. “Although it didn't work out from a business perspective, for me -- with these cars -- it was ingenious."
In the background, MyGallons is investing Solomon’s money in the petroleum market for him. He’s small potatoes compared to an airline. But he’s there.
Verona concedes there is risk. But he says users can’t lose money unless they redeem for less than they paid. Verona says the firm has made the background investment portion break even. MyGallons makes money on fees: A $30 annual fee, a six-percent administrative charge when buying, plus a redemption fee of six cents per gallon.
That might sour the deal. But, even with those extra charges, Verona says users still save money.
"Most of the customers will buy and hold until they are saving a dollar a gallon,” he said.
Recently, gas prices have tumbled to near $2 a gallon. But that hasn’t fazed Solomon, the classic car driver. In fact, the slide in oil prices has motivated him to stock up on MyGallons credits.
"I have just about a thousand gallons in my account at this point, and to be honest with you, I'm holding it,” he said. “At this point I'm holding it because I believe it's going to go up."
He dreams of redeeming today’s $2 gallons if -- or when -- gas shoots to $4 a gallon.
“Fifty percent off gas, not a bad deal,” he added.