Duncan Garner: BP's free fuel a 'feel-good campaign' likely trying to curry favour

Opinion 02/08/2019

Who doesn't love free stuff?

Someone offers something for free and we all dive in. We might even fight for our place in the queue - like all elbows, stern looks and toes in shoes inching ahead of the prat beside you because I was here first or second.

Who cares when you got nothing in the wallet, nothing in the tank, you wanna fill it up for free? 

Personally, I can't think of anything worse than rushing to get in a one hour queue for a free tank of gas. The tussle on the forecourt - is it worth it? 

Anyway, BP is suddenly our new BFF as two stations, one in South Auckland and one in Christchurch put on free fuel for an hour. Brilliant idea.

Cost BP 70,000 bucks - cheaper than an ad campaign and the forecourts became industrial strength magnets, attracting those car owners wanting to fill their boots. I suppose I can say that if the tank is near the boot. 

About 500 customers on the day got free fuel. We also got gridlock around the stations. 

That's because fuel is now so damn expensive, a free tank means something and crucially this is the first time we have seen genuine competition in the market.

They're usually joined at the hip while pretending to be independent.

There was no cooperation this time with the other petrol companies and actually appeared deliberately timed to disrupt a new promotion from Caltex. 

Talk about a feel-good campaign. They gave away pies, doughnuts and drinks to those in line. One woman even got free fuel after travelling a long distance for a funeral - good timing BP. 

So how do the other companies respond? Drop the price and do it twice as well at 10 stations, don't just limit it to 2. 

But here's my sceptical side. Is the industry trying to create some goodwill before the findings of the Commerce Commission inquiry into fuel prices are released?

You can expect it will be damning.

We pay a lot for fuel and we have done for some time.

Is this why BP bent over backwards?

It's trying to curry favour before the truth gets out.

Duncan Garner is the host of The AM Show.