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Published: Friday, 9/18/2009

BP stations owned by local chain shuns cards

BLADE STAFF

A leading gas station chain is temporarily shunning plastic in the Toledo area, causing headaches for credit-card users.

Signs taped to pumps at BP stations operated by the Barney's Convenience Mart chain starting last week blamed the move on "computer problems." But a Barney's executive acknowledged Thursday that the situation is the result of a financial dispute.

"I quit taking them," conceded Roy Clark, chief operating officer of J-F Enterprises Inc. in Perrysburg.

Mr. Clark said he took the action because BP, which processes the chain's credit-card payments, has stopped reimbursing him for the transactions. But other sources, while acknowledging that J-F is owed money, suggested that other factors may be at work.

Mr. Clark said he hopes to resolve the situation and begin accepting card payments as early as today. Metro Toledo has 38 BP stations, most operated by Barney's.

Customers reported that some Barney's stations were without customers while across-the-street rivals had booming business.

Scott Dean, a spokesman for BP in Chicago, declined to discuss reasons behind the local situation.

"We don't own or operate the sites," he said.

"But," he added, "I'd like to apologize to customers that metro Toledo sites have not been accepting credit cards. We're working to get the situation resolved as quickly as possible."

Mr. Clark said he quit accepting credit cards about a week ago.

"I'm owed $1 million," he said. "It sucked up my cash flow."

One person familiar with the card issue who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the problem appears to be the result of a dispute between Barney's fuel distributor - and parent company - in Dearborn, Mich., and its lender.

Attempts to reach the distributor, Armada Oil & Gas Co., for comment were unsuccessful. The voice mail of one company official was full and not accepting messages.



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