Gas prices hit hard for small business owners


Outside the downtown Marriott Hotel, San Francisco cab driver Henry Baqleh tells it like it is.

"Today is [a] very bad day," he said.

He's been driving people around since 6:30 a.m., but $15 is all that's left after he paid to fill up the gas tank. Now, with an hour left in his shift, the whole day hinges on whether somebody wants to go to the airport.

"I wait for the Marriott; if I take airport, I make $65," he said.

It turned out to be his lucky day. He gets his fare and heads to the airport.

But as they wait in line behind him, other cabbies are doing the math on this latest hike in gas prices and they're not liking the answer.

"It has an impact of around $600 a month on our gas budget," taxi driver Ramesh Kumar said.

But where these prices can hurt even more is if you drive something bigger than a taxicab. If you're a business owner with a small fleet of trucks or vans, numbers like these are enough to make you rethink the way you operate.

"If it keeps going we might have to increase our delivery cost," florist Larry Hoogasian said.

Hoogasian has five delivery vans. Filling up one of them now costs well over $100. But like a lot of flower shops, Hoogasian charges a flat delivery fee. So when gas prices go up he absorbs the cost.

When gas gets expensive, Hoogasian says he relies more on independent delivery services.

Couriers like Demarco Ransom combine jobs to save gas. If flowers are headed to a hospital, he can pick up medical records at the same time.

"We mix the flowers and the freight, but also combined with the flowers and the freight, we do what you call a mail run, which is we cover, we cover medical records from the hospital," Ransom said.

Even with his costs rising, Ransom has resisted raising prices.

"That's what I try not to do, because you know what, when you start tacking that gas price on them, that does hurt the relationship, and you'll find that you get less and less shipments," he said.

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