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Corporate America Gives Shelter from the Storm

By Jessica Lee

Tuesday September 18, 2001

Headline Photo

Jessica Lee

A fax arrived around 10:30 Tuesday morning to Arizona Trails, Inc. The independent Flagstaff business is responsible for Texaco gasoline distribution in Northern Arizona. The fax was a press release from their boss, Texaco-Shell in Houston. It read that the prices of wholesale gas were now frozen and a daily gas allocation of product had been put in place.

While most Americans sat glued to their televisions waiting to watch the latest news unfold, corporate American leaders were making decisions that could make or break the future of our economy.

The employees of Equilon Enterprises LLC and Motiva Enterprises LLC, marketers of Texaco- and Shell-branded fuel throughout the U.S. made one of those decisions early that morning. They did not want to cause a run on gas within Arizona. If any of their independent retailers hurried out and took more than their usual allocation, it would unbalance the supply and demand among all the dealers. This could have consequently caused the price of gas in Arizona to rise dramatically. With their independent suppliers getting the same deal, it would lower the possibility of price gouging to occur.

September 11, 2001 was a day that brought out heroes. While stories and pictures of firefighters, brave citizens and blood donors kept the news going, champions at a less-noticeable level made decisions for the good of the United States.

While some gas stations in the Midwest drove their prices up over five dollars a gallon, the employees of Texaco-Shell were clearly prepared for a national emergency. Their economic plan of attack is nothing but heroism. As people across the country lined-up at gas stations emptying company's tanks, Texaco-Shell could have chosen to cash in the opportunity to rip off the scared American.

But, they didn't. Gas prices stayed the same.

Then on Thursday morning, Arizona Trails again received a fax from the big dogs in Houston. This message was "encouraging" all gasoline retailers not to increase their prices. Fearing their distributors might follow others in skyrocketing the price per gallon, a similar fax was sent out on Friday. Legally, Texaco-Shell cannot instruct its independent retailers what to charge for gas, but there was nothing wrong with giving the smaller retailers their two bits. The strength of its message promoted what was the best for the U.S. economy.

Not only did Texaco-Shell emerge from the national crisis as a leader, but also every gas station that chose not to raise their prices should be applauded. The employees at Arizona Trails felt proud to be part of Texaco that day. Texaco-Shell could have financially gained from the emergency. They also could have made the economic crisis worse by not organizing gas allocations. This in turn could have incited a greater economic chaos within the United States.

But they didn't.

Texaco isn't the only corporate business helping out. Wal-Mart, an aggressive American business, could have made a fortune this week off of the sale of flags. By mid-week, they had sold millions. On Tuesday morning, the CEO could have made the choice to jack the price of our national symbol by 100 percent, and cash into the pride that was sweeping across the country. Yet, he didn't. A Tucson Wal-Mart employee was quoted as saying, "It just made us want to give them away for free."

The red, white and blue didn't just symbolize capitalism last week.

Within hours, much of the dog-eat-dog mentality was placed on the back burners while individuals and businesses put another notion first. Helping fellow citizens and giving donations was more important than bringing in the bucks.

Due to the tragedy common to all Americans, the spirit of our country has elevated to a new level. According to many of the baby boomers that lived through national disasters such as the assassination of President Kennedy and the Vietnam War, never before has our nation seen such a unification of its citizens.

We are witnesses to the rise of many U.S. corporations to a new level-a human level.

Texaco-Shell and Wal-Mart did the right thing and should be seen as heroes.

Americans and the world have seen how strong our country can be when we stand together.


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