Originally created 05/01/06

Gas prices could drive up other costs



The rising price of gasoline could do more than drive up the cost of commuting or taking a vacation. It could also force you to pay a little extra to have your lawn mowed, send flowers to your sweetheart, get a pizza delivered or have a flat tire fixed.

Around the country, from a florist in Delaware to a pizza maker in Chicago, businesses that use lots of gasoline to make deliveries and service calls are raising their prices - or seriously thinking about it - to cover their costs.

In many cases, these businesses are also being hit with fuel surcharges by their suppliers. And that, too, is putting pressure on them to pass the costs along to their customers.

The situation demonstrates the many small ways in which $3-a-gallon gasoline could affect ordinary people.

Leigh Sorrells, owner of a bike shop in Danbury, Conn., said that because of higher fuel prices, bicycle makers are charging him an extra $3 to $5 for each bike shipped. He said he has yet to raise prices, but is giving customers fewer freebies, such as bike accessories.

"It's all going to come around, and that's the downside," he said. "Whether it's food, my stuff, this stuff, that stuff - everything is going to get more expensive."

In Dover, Del., Jen-Mor Florists, with a fleet of six trucks that generally handle 100 deliveries a day, has scaled back last-minute deliveries at the edge of its territory to just one run per day.

"We've had a lot of waste, like running 15 miles for one delivery. We've had to open our eyes to some of those things," said florist John Zimmerman.

Several months ago, he said, he raised his delivery charge by as much as $1 - the cost is now $6 to $10 - but that doesn't cover his costs, and he may have to increase it again.

In Greenville, Texas, Crew Cut Lawns, a landscaping and lawn care service with $180,000 worth of equipment and four gas-guzzling Suburbans, has raised prices 5 percent and stopped offering free irrigation estimates to outlying callers.

At American Tire Inc. shop in Wheeling, W.Va., Tom Fredericks has doubled his $5 charge for road service calls to fix flat tires. He said he may also have to increase prices for tires, which are made from oil.

Connie's Pizza, a Chicago-based chain that makes about 10 million pies a year, has a fleet of 60 delivery trucks that use a total of $10,000 to $12,000 in gas per week, president Marc Stolfe said.

The company charges a $2 delivery fee. But because of the run-up in gasoline prices, that no longer covers the overhead costs, Stolfe said. So far, he has yet to raise the delivery charge for fear of losing business.

"We're trying to find other ways to reduce costs," he said. "If this is permanent, I don't know where else you can go."

While filling up his four-wheeler at a gas station in East Peoria, Ill., Jason Johnson, 36, said that if pizza shops start charging more for delivery, he will stop having pizza delivered.

"I'm just the kind of person that if I'm paying for it, I'm not going to pay them to bring it to me," he said.

But Roland Lahne, 70, is resigned to the prospect of paying higher prices for all sorts of products. "We don't have a choice. You can't do without. You have to pay the price," he said. "If it costs more, I have to pay more."

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Associated Press writer Jan Dennis in East Peoria, Ill., contributed to this report.