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Consumers Complain Of Post-Sandy Price Gouging At Many Area Gas Stations

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- While getting around may be easier since Superstorm Sandy, paying a reasonable price for gas is not – at least at some locations CBS 2 found.

CBS 2 asked viewers about possible gas gouging locations, and viewers responded with several reported examples.

Among them was a Mobil station in Long Island City, Queens, where a gallon of regular unleaded was going for $4.89 a gallon.

"I don't make the prices," the manager at the gas station said, saying the owners were responsible for the steep increase.

The increase in this case was nearly $1 per gallon. Still, people were lining up to pay it.

One woman said she "definitely" felt like she was being ripped off, but said, "I guess when an emergency comes up, you have to pay."

At an Emporium gas station in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, customers said they had seen a 50 cent-per-gallon jump to $4.49 in the past couple of days.

"I don't know why they're inflating the prices. It's unnecessary, and they're just being greedy," said Stacci Latouche of Brooklyn.

Not too far away, a Sonomax in Brooklyn was charging $4.59 a gallon. Regular customers said that is an increase of 75 cents per gallon higher than pre-Sandy prices.

But Lillian Carrillo of Brooklyn said she felt like she had no choice but to suck it up and pay the inflated price.

"We do need the gas. We do need to go to work," Carrillo said.

CBS 2 approached the manager about the sky-high increase.

"I have no idea," she answered initially.

At first, the manager said prices were just as high at stations nearby. But when CBS 2 pointed out two stations within blocks were both under $4 per gallon, she changed her tune.

"I think the prices are high because we're buying high," she said.

CBS 2 spoke to the Long Island Gasoline Retailers president Kevin Breyer, who said the cost of getting gas is going up – not only when it comes to waiting for tankers to come in, but also when it comes to staffing gas stations.

Breyer said stations have been hiring more employees to try and meet the demand, and tanker trucks were waiting longer at the terminals for gas, driving up costs that have to be recovered.

But he admitted: "Absolutely, there is gouging going on. Anything above $4.50 a gallon has to be investigated."

In Queens, more long lines and more prices up 40 to 50 cents per gallon above pre-Sandy prices led to an observation from a mechanic.

"Now the people really do not see the price," said the mechanic, Juan. "They only want to see the gas."

And gasoline is indeed a valuable commodity these days.

The New York Attorney General's office said it had received more than 600 calls and complaints about price gouging on everything from a book of matches to a bag of potatoes to gasoline. The office was investigating Wednesday.

Have you been a victim of price gouging at the pump? Tell us about it...

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