It’s Time To Start Boycotting Shell Gas Stations

Posting a nasty shout-out on Facebook will not stop Burger King from relocating to Ireland to avoid paying taxes. Putting an anti-Republican bumper sticker on your Saab will not in any way make Senator Ted Cruz change his position on women’s reproductive rights. Shaving “Down with Starbucks” into your head will not convince the commissioners to pull their lease and make them move away from the best spot downtown, right across from The Arch. The only language Corporate America is fluent in is money. They’re cunning linguists in that particular tongue.

The only way to show a corporation that they need to change their ways is to hit them squarely in the pocket book. And, guess what? We can do this. It’s not even all that hard. If you hate the fact that Walmart doesn’t pay their employees a living wage, you don’t have to picket their stores. You don’t have to disrupt their stockholders’ meetings with an air horn, a garbage bag full of boa constrictors and a rebel yell. You just have to shop at Target.

And you have to convince your friends to do the same.

That’s the kicker.

But, more efficient and speedier organizing is one of the only positive uses of the Internet. Did you see the Arab Spring? Sure, it’s hard to deny that the Arab Summer was a huge let down, but those guys knew how to throw together a protest.

Personally, and this may be a personal thing, I recently began a one-man boycott of the gas at Shell Gas Stations. (I have to clarify that I’m only boycotting their gas because I get my second cup of daily coffee at a convenience store attached to a Shell. Yeah, I’m a bit of a hypocrite. We’ll get to that later.) It’s a worthwhile boycott.

I’m not doing it because of unfair business practices. I’m not doing it out of spite for the fact that they continue to sell hot dogs and taquitos on those horrid little roller-roasters, completely oblivious to the fact that those two culinary options aren’t, in any way, acceptable food for human beings. I’m not ramping up to start my national campaign due to their mandatory inclusion of TV screens in their stores, or that their TVs masquerade as entertainment and information vessels by the inclusion of a bottom scroll and a weather report, but 90% of the screen is inhabited by ads for crap sold in their stores. I’m not even doing it as a protest against our continued reliance on toxic fossil fuels when we have safer, cleaner, healthier fueling options.

I’m boycotting Shell gasoline because they recently “upgraded” their talking box of annoying advertisements at the pump to high-definition TV screens and they ditched the mute button. With the older-generation voice boxes, at least the voice was a semi-sultry, slightly sexy for marketing, female sex robot voice, and, more importantly, it had a mute button. Though I didn’t notice many of my fellow gas-buyers exercising their right to shut the voice up and inhale their deadly gas vapors in blissful silence, at least it was an option. There was a choice.

Upon my latest visit to a Shell (the one across from the new Oconee meg-mall, so I shouldn’t be all that surprised) I discovered the screen. They had NFL highlights, a local weather report, and, of course, ads for the crap they sold inside the store. I would’ve just shut up and pumped my oil-water if it weren’t for one thing. There was no OFF button. There wasn’t even a mute button. I HAD to watch it. The screen was full of flashing lights, quick random motion and curt, catchy phrases. It was clearly programmed for today’s moronic youth.

Not wanting to drive even thirty seconds out of my way to fill my two-ton explosion mobile with prehistoric algae, I wanted to give Shell a chance at redemption. I ventured inside and asked the kindly, middle-aged proprietor how to turn the damn screen off. He told me that it was just not possible. I feel bad for the guy. He seems like a decent, hard-working first-generation immigrant, the kind of man America needs to continue to attract in order for us to stay on the top of the international food chain. He wanted to help me. But his hands were tied. God bless corporate America. No wait, God, on second thought, do the opposite of blessing corporate America!

Here’s the part that makes me a conflicted hypocrite. I don’t want to hurt the guy who runs the Shell station. It’s not his fault that his corporate overlords are inhuman greed-monkeys. Boycotting his store will not only hurt Shell, or whoever actually owns this chain (I haven’t done my research). It won’t only hurt the 1%. It’ll hurt some of the 99% too. I went through the same internal conflict with BP a few years ago when they, along with the always-helpful-and-chocked-full-of-love folks at Haliburton, coated the Gulf of Mexico with yummy tar balls, creating the worst environmental disaster since the meteor strike that killed the dinosaurs. Ironic, no? There’s an amazing, fundamentally decent, Christian-in-the-real-way, man who runs the full-service (you heard me right) former-BP station at the corner of Baxter and Alps. His name is Charles and he’s the most honest mechanic I’ve ever met. I wanted to boycott BP, but I didn’t want to hurt Charles, so I decided that the only BP I would frequent was his shop. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, for aspiring high-information, progressive activists, BP learned the World Com lesson the hard way and either sold their U.S. stores to, or merged with, a gas station with the most patriotic American name they could think of, 76. So, now I have no internal conflict when I see Charles, but I do have a little under-the-surface doubt. I like and respect Charles. I want to give him my business. He’s a really good man. But I can’t shake the feeling that I’m somehow lining the pockets of British oilmen.

I’ve drifted off-topic a little. This boycott is about screens.

I’m sick of the proliferation of screens. They’re fucking everywhere. You can’t avoid them. Even if you don’t own a cell phone, don’t work on a computer, and only leave your tranquil, Luddite home once a week to buy groceries, you still can’t avoid screens. They’ve multiplied. They’ve infested our grocery check-out lines. They’ve invaded our cars, our schools, and are rapidly conquering our billboards (which already sucked, so, of course, the happy bastards at Clear Channel found a way to make them suck even more by quadrupling them and adding just a dash of politics). I will concede the fact that training our children on the tools they’re sure to encounter once they grow up and enter the adult workforce does make some sense, but that doesn’t make up for the dehumanizing effects on all of us. That doesn’t make them a necessary part of the gas-pumping experience.


It’s not as if there aren’t plenty of other options for gas.


P.S. I recently discovered another reason to boycott Shell gas stations. This one’s about the Golden Pantry, the outfit partnered with Shell to sell us bad coffee, sugary nonsense in wacky shapes and tobacco products. The Golden Pantry’s shine lost a little of its luster awhile back when they got busted for selling 12-year-olds cigarettes. Now, not only do they ask you for your ID when you want to buy lottery tickets, tobacco or booze, but they feel the need to scan the barcode on the back of your drivers license into their system. I don’t want a freaking record of the crap I buy at convenience stores to exist anywhere. I don’t even want it to exist inside my own memory, but I can’t blame The Golden Pantry for my stupidity…only their own.