... Vishal Nair, who runs the Lukoil station at Eighth Avenue and 13th Street in Greenwich Village, took another plastic number last week, turned it over and scribbled “4” on it with a black magic marker. The result was an obviously homemade “$4.47,” but it would have to do until he received the extra 4s he ordered months ago.
“Typically, we have a lot of 9s and 1s, and we had a shortage of 3s before we got a lot of 3s in,” Mr. Nair said.
The missing digits are an unanticipated barometer of how frequently prices are changing. The average price of regular gasoline in New York City has risen by 35 percent this year, forcing station managers to change their price displays almost every time they get a delivery, which can be daily at some stations.
Franchises often order numbers from their parent companies, though like independent station owners, they can buy directly from sign companies. Sets of 40 include equal numbers of each digit, which are magnetic or slip into plastic holders. Digits, which are often in a Helvetica font, are sold individually for as little as a $1.50. In New York, numbers must be 4.5 or 9 inches tall.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Running out of 4s
At the Times, Ken Belson on gas-station owners' makeshift digits: