The guy who accidentally charged 69 cents for gas is trying to repay $20,000 to the station that fired him
The manager of a Shell gas stop in California was fired this week after he accidentally trimmed more than $6 from his station’s premium fuel prices for three hours.
Prices for premium gas at a Shell stop in Rancho Cordova, Calif., last Thursday were as low as 69 cents a gallon, after manager John Szczecina mistakenly adjusted the price from its original rate of $6.99. The last time gas sold for that little was in 1978.
Szczecina’s story quickly went viral, as word spread and drivers flocked to take advantage of the cheap gas prices. But once the error came to light, Szczecina was placed on administrative leave, and ultimately lost his job this week, as the blunder cost the owner of the gas station $20,000, a debt the now unemployed Szczecina fully intends to pay off.
“Even though it cost me my job, it’s fine. Because the truth is, you know, it’s my fault,” Szczecina said in an interview with the Washington Post. “I know nobody wants to say that anymore, but I felt it was important to own up to my mistake and do everything I can to make it right.”
To cover the bill, Szczecina’s sister Paula Jackson set up a GoFundMe page online where people could pitch in. The page had already raised nearly $15,000 as of Thursday afternoon.
When contacted through the GoFundMe, neither Szczecina nor Jackson immediately responded to Fortune’s request for comment.
Over 600 people have contributed to the campaign, with one anonymous donor putting in $1,000.
“We are halfway there,” Jackson wrote on the page Wednesday. “We are looking forward to giving the check to the owners of the Shell gas station. John is doing this because it is the right thing to do.”
A representative from Shell’s U.S. division told Fortune that the station is independently owned, and the company is not responsible for pricing, hiring, and termination decisions.
In his interview with the Washington Post, Szczecina said that while he considered the blunder an “honest mistake,” he was more than prepared to accept the decision to fire him, although Californian drivers who benefited from his error are probably seeing him in a much better light than his former employer.
When Szczecina was instructed to raise gas prices to $6.99 last Thursday, it was the third time he had been asked to raise prices that week, as a nationwide surge in gas prices is proving especially difficult for Californian drivers. National average gas prices are now $5 a gallon, with premium gas going for $5.69. In California, however, normal gas is going for an average of $6.43, while premium is selling for $6.76.
Rising gas prices were already making life more difficult for gas station managers like Szczecina, who said he has been forced to cut costs where he can over the past few weeks.
“We weren’t making a profit anymore,” Szczecina told the Post. “I’d been doing everything I could, from cutting back on stuff we weren’t selling as much to making sure we had the soda, coffee, anything my regulars liked. It’s been really hard.”
Gas prices in the U.S. have been rising for months due to a Russian oil embargo straining global supply and difficulties boosting domestic production. Last week, President Biden criticized American petrochemical companies for not substantially increasing supply, despite companies like Exxon making “more money than God this year.”
Last week, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo warned that there “isn’t very much more to be done” on the country’s soaring gas prices at the moment.
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