By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – BP gas stations in Tupelo had a steady stream of customers this week, despite a grassroots movement to boycott the company that is being blamed for the country’s worst oil spill.
Public opinion of BP has taken a beating in the past two months since its Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers. The underwater well has spewed oil since.
As of Friday, more than 557,000 people worldwide supported a Facebook group that pledges to forever boycott BP and its brands, including Castrol, Amoco and Wild Bean Cafe.
But many BP station owners say that a boycott will hurt them, not the company.
“It’s going to be me losing the money, not BP,” said Sunny Bains, who owns Blue Mountain BP and One Stop Mart in Ripley.
He said he’s in the middle of a seven-year contract with BP that requires him to buy gas from the oil company.
“I can’t go elsewhere,” he said.
But calls for a boycott are gaining traction.
Boycott-related sites are popular, including BoycottBP.org and a fake public relations account on Twitter (@BPglobalPR) that pokes fun at BP.
And musicians are joining the boycott too, with The Backstreet Boys on Thursday saying they won’t fill up at BP stations during their current tour.
Said Backstreet member Brian Littrell in a written statement, “We just played Biloxi last week and I have to tell you people are really worried down there. This boycott is about making a statement, letting people know how we feel and to stand for something.”
But Northeast Mississippi customers kept the local stations busy this week, absolving their owners of any blame for the spill.
“I don’t think it’s their fault,” said James Walker of Tupelo, who stopped at the South Gloster Street BP station. “These guys are just trying to make a living.”
At least three of the BP locations in Tupelo are independently owned. The owners were unavailable for comment this week and managers did not want to comment on the record.
A MarketWatch story on Friday quoted a Georgetown University marketing professor, who speculated that if drivers start boycotting BP stations in significant numbers, BP may be forced to revive the Amoco brand it acquired in 1998.
But BP spokesman David Nicholas, in the MarketWatch story, said the oil company has no plans to use the Amoco brand again.
According to the story, 20 percent of Exxon customers said they would no longer buy gasoline from the company after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. About 3 percent to 7 percent actually followed through, MarketWatch said.
Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or firstname.lastname@example.org.