By Ryan McCracken
Alberta Newspaper Group
A gas station in Walsh is facing backlash after deciding to drop its prices under a new promotion, but Service Alberta says it isn’t breaking any rules.
Walsh Save On Gas owner Anwar Kamaran said in a March 28 News article that he decided to lower his prices to around 50 cents per litre – which put him at a loss – in an effort to help make COVID-19 easier on many Canadians still forced to drive for work or other reasons. That number has since dropped to 34.9, but the low price comes with a catch – consumers must spend money in the connected convenience store in order to access the pumps.
The gas station had signs posted Tuesday asking customers to pay $5 in the store in order to qualify for the promotion, but Medicine Hat’s Paul Graham say those signs didn’t exist as recently as Sunday.
“They had no signs up whatsoever,” said Graham, who attempted to fill up at Walsh Save On Gas on Sunday. “I walked in there and asked for about $40 in fuel. Then he starts going on about savings and everything else, and he started adding everything up, then the next minute there’s a $125 bill that he was about to give me. I said, ‘No, I don’t want to buy anything for groceries in the store, all I want is about 80 litres of fuel.’ That’s all I wanted. He said, ‘This is how you save money.’ I said, ‘No, this is not how you save money. This is a scam, what you’re doing, and this is not right.’ So I just left the store, went next door and bought fuel off his neighbour (Trailside Tempo) instead.”
Kamaran told the News in March there was no obligation for customers to buy anything other than gas, but the station appears to have changed that stance since further dropping its prices. Kamaran refused to comment on the nature of the promotion – which has been garnering mixed reviews, to say the least.
Signage had the price of gas listed at 34.9 cents per litre Tuesday, followed by small print stating, “We ask that you spend an additional $5 minimum in store to qualify for promo. Taking a loss to help you. Together we can get through this. Any extra is appreciated.”
Service Alberta press secretary Tricia Velthuizen was unable to go into detail, but stated through email after seeing an image of the promotional sign that “there are no restrictions on a business requiring a purchase in order for a customer to benefit from a sale.” She did not respond to a follow-up email in regard to running a promotion without signage to indicate the conditions.
Service Alberta may say the promotion is above board, but Graham isn’t alone in feeling wronged by the business. The Facebook post from the March 28 News article on Save On’s low prices has amassed more than 260 comments in the six weeks since it was published, with many insisting they had experiences similar to Graham’s and that the promotion was misleading.
Moose Jaw’s Kolton Smith says he was passing through Walsh with a few co-workers just over two weeks ago when they stopped at Save On to top off their vehicles. He says they were quickly informed they would have to either make a donation or purchase goods from the station’s store in order to fill up. Smith added they were not presented with the option to purchase only gas, and it was implied that the donations were for the business itself.
“We wanted to get some fuel for a diesel truck and a Yukon SUV. The SUV had between half a tank and three quarters, just wanted to top it up,” said Smith, adding it was his first time in Walsh.
“They stated they weren’t making any money due to low gas prices, so they would be needing a $20 donation as well, on top of what we were going to pay for gas. When we stated we wouldn’t pay that, then they said that me and my two other coworkers would then have to spend $15 each on in-store products. We ended up going to the gas station next door.”
Kamaran spoke briefly to the News again on Monday and requested an interview later in the day, but did not respond to multiple calls during the agreed time frame. In Monday’s short conversation, Kamaran said “people are making stories without any proof” on social media.
Another attempt was made to reach out to Kamaran in person on Tuesday, but he refused to provide any comment, including in regard to the allegations made by Smith and Graham.
Walsh Save On Gas has also been in an ongoing dispute with neighbouring Trailside Tempo for some time. On March 31, Trailside’s Facebook page published a post saying “members of the Redcliff RCMP came into our business and informed me that they had received a complaint that the proprietor of the Walsh Save On Gas had tried to enlist or pay a person to do damage to our business and ourselves.”
Redcliff RCMP Staff Sgt. Sean Maxwell confirmed there is an investigation in regard to the businesses, but couldn’t elaborate further.
“We’ve certainly got an investigation into that sort of an allegation,” said Maxwell.
Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, Trailside Tempo owner Geoff Shoesmith chose not to comment.
“I cannot comment because of the ongoing police investigation and charges,” said Shoesmith, who owns Trailside Tempo with his family.
Trailside Tempo’s gas was priced at 59.9 cents per litre Tuesday, but the station had no shortage of customers.
Kamaran ran for the Alberta Liberal Party in Cypress-Medicine Hat in 2019.