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Economy

[Gas Prices]

‘Free’ for All

What do you get when you give away $10,000 worth of gasoline? A flashback to the long lines of the ’70s

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Hundreds of motorists waited in vain for free gas.
Photo: Aaron Thompson

Would you wait two and a half hours in your car in 90-degree temperatures to fill up with free gas? (Never mind the staggering amount you’re probably using just to keep the air conditioning going.) College student David Ortega did, and got his free gas—barely.

Hundreds weren’t so lucky last Friday. In a scene looking at best like the gas-starved ’70s and at worst like something from a post-apocalyptic thriller, lines of traffic snaked southbound on Jones Boulevard stretching from Flamingo Road to Tropicana Avenue and down Tropicana to Decatur Boulevard. Motorists who seemed to have an ill-formed opinion of just how many vehicles $10,000 worth of free gas could fill (answer: 149) waited for hours in the sweltering heat, some perched on their hoods to get a better look at their chances.

It took all of 49 minutes to dispense the precious fuel, and Ortega, driving a 2004 Jeep Cherokee, was the last lucky soul to get it. But the wait was worth it, he says. “Gas prices are too high right now. I’ve got a V-8, so it takes around $60-$70 to fill it up.” Cricket Wireless, a San Diego-based wireless looking to make a name for themselves, picked the best way to get attention with the giveaway. “When the word about something free gets out, people start to come,” says Tiffany Pexton, a representative with Cricket. But only time will tell whether the gesture engendered good or ill will.

“There’s no way we’re ever letting something like this happen again,” said a Metro police sergeant as he assessed the traffic nightmare from the side of the road. As the day went by (some motorists were there at 7 a.m. even though the event didn’t commence until 5 p.m.), tempers flared, and some—whether realizing it was impossible for them to get the gas or just wishing to get home—decided to give up.

When the pumps stopped, the number of cars turned away was too high to count (some estimates topped out at 700). Even Pexton expressed surprise at the turnout. She would have tried getting free gas herself, but with one proviso: “If the line was too long, I wouldn’t have.”

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