Little Rock Ok, a lot of you don’t drive at all. I’m starting to get that. Living in the USA, I often forget that until I’m out about the bigger world and regularly encounter people whose idea of a fast ride on the roads is a 2-wheel bicycle or who are trying to master driver’s license exams never having owned a car. Driving my monthly route from New Orleans to Houston, Houston to Dallas, Dallas to Little Rock, and Little Rock to New Orleans again, I can share some things about the road with you as I tack on my 1000 plus miles, including some tips on gas stations.
On various of my routes either from Houston to Dallas through Madisonville or when I run from Houston to Austin to Dallas past Round Rock, I would see all of these signs with a cartoon big toothed beaver advertising something called Buc-ee’s, which always looked like the Walmart of gas stations, simply Texas-sized, stretched over acres and acres. I was curious but never paid much attention until Congressman Joaquin Castro from San Antonio reportedly was launching a boycott of the outfit tweeting that he “Won’t gas up there anymore since they support a fear mongering immigrant basher.” Now, I was interested. It seemed the owners, one of whose nicknames of course was Beaver, as you might have guessed, had endorsed for Lieutenant-Governor and contributed to a hardcore hater rightwing radio commentator, and, yes that does seem almost a redundancy to say since hardcore hater and rightwing radio commentator these days always seem like a matched set.
I stopped by to gawk at Buc-ee’s as I drove through Madisonville. My previous connection to the city had been a couple of conversations in late 70’s and early 80’s with John Henry Faulk, the Texas populist and radio man, who was blacklisted by McCarthy in the dark days of the Cold War and headed up the lawsuit and his union’s efforts to finally break the blacklist. This place was something different. It’s known for its clean restrooms and there are scores of them for sure. The gas was another thing entirely. They were pricing unleaded regular at $3.15 per gallon when literally EVERYONE else on the highway was around $2.99. With gas prices that high, Congressman Castro doesn’t need a boycott, and sure enough there were more people in the store than at the pumps.
The cheapest signs for gas within miles on either side of Buc-ee’s were behind a sign saying QT, which stands for QuikTrip. Their price said is all: $2.75, lower than anything I had seen in three states, two of them, Louisiana and Texas, oil and gas giants of the USA. Later, killing time, I found myself scrolling my Facebook feeds, and my old friend and organizing partner, Helene O’Brien, had posted something from Uncut US about QuikTrip. Small world, I’m thinking, but the post talked of a bigger, better world saying,
QuikTrip, a convenience-store chain with 700 locations, pays cashiers $40,000/year–twice the average–and managers earn $70,000. Employees also receive excellent benefits including healthcare, vision, dental, 401(k) retirement plans, paid vacation, bonuses, and stock options. Treating their workforce well has paid off: employee turnover rates are 10% (compared to nearly 60% for the industry), and QuikTrip stores generate 50% more sales than competitors.
Sure, bathrooms are important, but they’re not everything, and QuikTrip’s were more than nice enough for me, and frankly when I go to a gas station, I’m mainly there for, yes, you guessed it, gas! We may not always have cheap gas, but while we have it, combining it with well paid workers like QuikTrip is doing needs to be the business model for America, not big teeth, rightwing politics, and premium prices.