East Coast dealers will remember $4.85 gas, $20,000 to rent a generator

It’s the little things in life that sometimes make big impressions.

Take New York-area auto dealer Bruce Bendell’s experience refueling his car a few days after Hurricane Sandy hit.

Bendell had been avoiding fuel stations because of the hours-long lines for gasoline following Sandy. But late one night this past week he had to refuel. He found a station off the highway that was open with “only three cars there,” he said.

Bendell soon realized why the line was so short.

“Regular gas was $4.85 a gallon. That’s a big markup,” Bendell says. “The next morning on the radio they mentioned some gas stations were gouging. It’s supply and demand.”

Fuel stations weren’t the only ones gouging.

New Jersey dealer Peter Spina needed to rent a commercial generator to get his store’s power back on. He’d been closed for a week because of a lack of electricity. Spina knew the generator should cost about $5,000 a week. Yet, the one he found cost $20,000 a week. Spina knew he was being ripped off.

You can bet both dealers will remember those businesses when times return to normal and not patronize them if they can help it.

And in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, those are two examples of businesses that prove reputation is defined in the small deeds done during a big crisis.