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Backlash Against BP Gas Stations Mounts

Station owners report vandalism and a drop in gas sales, as talk of consumer protests mount.
June 11, 2010

NEW YORK and HAMPTON ROADS, VA - News of BP gas stations experiencing consumers' frustrations over the Gulf Oil spill are increasing, as headlines earlier this week �" "BP Gas Station Owners Beg Vandals to Stop (Gothamist.com) and "Local BP Stations Brace for Backlash from Oil Spill (PilotOnline.com) �" attest.

According to Gothamist.com, more than half a dozen BP stations around New York City have been vandalized, with owners feeling unjustly targeted.

"What are they trying to prove? They're just stupid!" said Mark Sapozhnikov, manager of a BP station in Brooklyn, who said it cost him more than $1,500 to clean his station's sign, which was splattered with brown paint. "They need to realize that by vandalizing private businesses, they're not helping the oil spill."

Police said that area vandals have been filling water balloons with paint, and targeting the prominent BP signage.

In Virginia, BP station owners are on edge, fearful for their livelihoods should threatened boycotts materialize.

"We could lose our whole financial life, basically. If everybody stopped buying gas here, we would be bankrupt pretty quickly," said George Diggs Jr., who has owned a BP station in Chesapeake with his wife for 11 years. "Hopefully, people will understand."

According to Jeff Miller, president of Miller Oil Co., which owns 16 BP stations and supplies BP gas to nearly 50 small operators, station protests do little to punish the oil company.

"Basically, we're caught in the crossfire," Miller said, adding that he understands that consumers want to take some sort of action. "They want to vent their frustration. They want to vent their anger."

Miller said that while most BP dealers' sales have been unaffected, a few have reported sales drops and boycott-related concerns.

A BP dealer near Virginia Beach said that his sales have dropped nearly 25 percent, and he suspects that it 's because tourists have avoided BP, Miller said. A BP operator on the Outer Banks told Miller that he wanted to pull down his BP signs.