Low price. Costly sale.

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JANUARY 2, 2009

I’ve wondered from time to time at what price I’d be willing to sell out my principles. I’d like to think I can’t be bought, but I sold out today. You see, ever since the Exxon Valdez incident, where the tanker fouled miles of the Alaska shoreline, I’ve refused to buy gas from an Exxon station because I felt the company behaved irresponsibly in the wake of the accident. When Mobil merged with Exxon, it became included in my boycott. Not, of course, that my actions have ever had any impact on the company. Exxon/Mobil repeatedly rakes in obscene profits. It has just been a matter of principle for me.

Today, however, when I was out running errands, the dashboard warning light came on, reminding me I was low on fuel. I made a mental note to stop at my regular station on my way home. As I drove through South Portland, a sign stood out from all the others on Route 1. It was a Mobil station, offering regular gas at $1.57 per gallon. My usual station’s price was $1.71. Now if it had only been three or four cents lower, I would have willingly snubbed Mobil and driven on by. But 14 cents a gallon less — well, that turned out to be enough for me to abandon my boycott. If I were in a stable financial situation, it would have been easier for me to adhere to my principles, but as it is, a dollar saved here or there adds up and makes a difference in whether I can afford to keep paying my bills. I feel sad, I feel guilty. I wonder what other compromises I’ll have to make along the way in order to survive.

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