March 3, 2005
Cordele-- The high price of gas causes people to rely on large signs to find the best deal. And with prices forecast to rise even more for the summer driving season, motorists will be more price conscious.
To move up the corporate ladder in the petroleum industry, you might have to climb a real one more times that you might expect.
Mike Patel certainly knows that. He doesn't give it a second thought to do what many people wouldn't think of doing. HeHhighway 280 West, about two blocks from Interstate 75.
It doesn't look very tall from the ground, and the huge steel column looks as if it could withstand almost anything, but the tall sign has a life of its own. A gentle wind moves the superstructure, and Mike doesn't seem to notice or care.
He changes the prices at least twice a week. "Monday through Friday price is down. Friday or Saturday price is up," says Mike after lowering the price on one side of the sign. A handle unlocks a panel ten feet tall, and he makes four price changes without giving it a second thought. But, Mike hasn't always felt so comfortable. "The first time scared. Second time no scared," says Mike.
That was four months ago. He found practice creates a sense of security. Some days, the veteran price changer gets plenty of climbing exercise. "Sometimes one time. Sometimes two times," says Mike as he secures one of the four handles that locks each sign's price. With every price change comes more exercise.
Three businesses rely on him to make their price changes. "I am tired? No," says Mike. In less than five minutes, Mike Patel got closer to the clouds and felt the wind in his face unlike people on the ground feel.
And what climbs up must climb down. Twenty-seven steps to the security of the ground, not even looking back to see where he's been. Mike Patel realizes that in business these days that flexibility is a sign of the times.
The RaceWay corporate office keeps track of gasoline prices and notifies Mike when to change his signs.