SAINT PAUL, Minn. - On a day when gasoline prices spiked by $.10 a gallon overnight, one neighborhood found prices going the other way: all the way to zero. It was a free gas giveaway for two hours on Thursday beginning at 9 a.m.
The tiny Coulee Bank, with one branch in Saint Paul, staged the dramatic giveaway at the Highland Park BP on Randolph Avenue. There were no strings attached to the giveaway. The gas was pumped by Coulee Bank employees and friends.
"Up to $20 worth of gasoline and there's no strings attached," said Kenneth Schaefer, Market President of Coulee Bank-Saint Paul. "It is just come on in and we fill the tanks. It is really part of a community outreach effort that we have undertaken."
It is also a way to call attention to their competition with mega-banks in the area. The gas giveaway was meant to demonstrate the kind of service and fees that big banks have not offered.
"We think we have a different product and we think it is unique in terms of the variety of options and the capabilities and the fact that it is no fees and there are rewards for banking with us," said Schaefer.
Highland Park BP co-owner Brian Henderson was gleeful as he helped pump free gas for a few customers as well. "I think it is a great idea, tons of people, giving back to the community. That is what we are all about. It is great."
Drivers like Estell Sell of Saint Paul were ecstatic. "It is astonishing! I mean, who can believe it? I have never had free gas in my life and I am 86 years old!" commented Sell.
"I love it! It is awesome, especially right before the holiday where it always goes up," gushed Margi Jacobowski of Saint Paul.
Traffic formed a line down Edgecomb Road from Randolph, guided by off-duty Saint Paul Police. The 200th vehicle fell into line by 10:45 a.m.
Schaefer indicated that the bank might repeat the giveaway in 2014. Coulee Bank has just 3 branches, in LaCrosse and Onalaska, Wisconsin and at 742 Grand Avenue in Saint Paul.
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