Price Chopper's Fuel AdvantEdge Card Fueling Anxious, Erratic Behavior

By Dodie Fingerton

Published May 15th, 2016

GLENS FALLS — A 54-year old man is recovering at the Seven Zephyrs Rehabilitation Center in Saratoga after suffering a nervous breakdown while attempting to cash in his Price Chopper gas rewards.

Police were called to The Gassy Goose Sunoco Station on Route 9 Friday after employees noticed a man weeping in his car.

“The individual was clearly distraught when officers arrived,” said Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Paul Reubens. “He was ranting about how he let his 30-cents off per gallon fuel reward expire at midnight.”

The man — who ended up paying $2.08 per gallon instead of $1.78 per gallon— was taken into custody, but later moved to Seven Zephyrs for evaluation.

Friday's incident is the latest in a series of disturbances associated with the controversial reward program whereby Price Chopper customers earn 10-cents off per gallon for every $100 they spend on groceries.

“We respond to at least one gas reward-related freakout per week,” said Ruebens. “Most are normal people who lose it after forgetting to cash-in on time. But a handful are serious nut jobs.”

In March, a gunman took three mini-mart employees hostage in Lake George after a power outage prevented him from saving $3.20 on five gallons of regular unleaded gasoline.

The seven-hour standoff came to an end after a tactical SWAT unit swarmed the store and apprehended 59-year-old Craig Balloon of Gansevoort.

A similar incident occurred in 2014 when a woman who was seven minutes late redeeming $1.10 off per gallon ran amok at a Sunoco station in Watervliet, injuring 14.

At her trial, Rebecca Pickleman of East Berne said she saw red when the pump calculated a price higher than expected.

“I spent $1,100 on groceries and had nothing to show for it... well, except the $1,100 in groceries. Point is, I lost out on $12.30 in gas,” she told an Albany County judge at her sentencing.

Hudson Valley Community College Psychology Professor Gregory Eucharist said consumers need to be aware of the pitfalls associated with these types of reward programs.

“For the points to produce a nice return they need to accumulate,” said Eucharist. “So we're seeing a lot of people riding the line between paying less than a buck per gallon for gas and freaking out because they forgot to cash-in.”

In order to deal with the meltdowns effectively, Saratoga County Sheriff's are now required to carry $20 in loose change with them at all times.

“It's less of a drain on the system if we just give these sad individuals the couple of bucks they would have saved had they remembered to cash-in on time,” said Ruebens.


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