Rising gasoline prices have led area businesses, even some that customers might not expect to do so, to charge customers for the added costs.
Its fuel costs having risen 47 percent in the previous 18 months, Allied Waste Services Inc., of Erie, Mich., tacked on a surcharge for trash pickup a year ago. The fee ranges from 3 cents to $300 a month, depending on the customer.
"We're definitely concerned, and we've been looking for efficiencies to cuts costs," said Matt Terrell, Allied Waste's general manager. "For example, we don't let trucks idle more than five minutes in any single spot."
Savory LE Tree and Lawn Service Inc., of Toledo, has taken even more drastic measures.
"Fuel is killing us as a small business," said Andrea Villarreal, office manager.
It assigns three workers per truck, rather than using two trucks on jobs as in the past, and encourages workers to bring their lunches rather than drive the trucks to buy lunch. It added a fuel surcharge on Jan. 1, billing $1 per $100 of service.
Doug Samsen, president of Samsen Home Furnishing Co., of Genoa, said, "It's a real Catch-22 time for us all. You don't want to hurt your customers, but at the same time you have to cover the increase in your costs."
The company, which boasts one of the largest furniture showrooms in the area, increased its home delivery charge by $10 in January. The extra covers Samsen's higher fuel fees plus a surcharge its suppliers charge.
If gas prices rise to $3 a gallon this summer, he said, "We're wondering, do we raise [delivery costs] again or what do we do?"
At Childers Limousine Service, of Toledo, owner John Childers said he has considered raising prices but is reluctant.
Instead, he's implemented measures and has changed equipment to cut costs. On trips to Detroit Metro Airport, Childers has tried to rearrange scheduling to ensure that limos have passengers on each leg of the trip.
"We are trying not to run any empty vehicles," he said.
Plus, he switched last year from eight-cylinder Lincoln Town Cars, which guzzle gas, to six-cylinder Chrysler 300 sedans. The firm also uses minivans instead of full-size vans when possible.
Fred Moor, co-owner of Ken's Flowers, of Toledo, is considering price increases. "We're definitely hurting," he said.
For now, the business is absorbing the cost, fearing a price increase may lead customers to forgo buying flowers, he said. "Ours is a discretionary-spending type of business."
Dick Bage, president of MedCorp Inc. ambulance service, which is headquartered in Toledo and serves northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan, wishes he could add fuel charges.
But the company's revenues are controlled by Medicare, Medicaid, and county contracts. "We eat the cost," he said.
The firm has tried ethanol-based E-85 fuel in 10 of its 400 vehicles, and it appears to be working, he said.
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