How suburban businesses are adjusting to record-high gas prices
Svilen Gadzhov used to travel anywhere in the metropolitan Chicago area to fix appliances. When record-breaking gasoline prices swept the nation, he was faced with a choice: raise his prices, or travel less.
Gadzhov, who owns and operates Great Services and Repair Co., decided to set a 20-mile radius from his homebase in Rolling Meadows to offset both gasoline costs and the rising prices of appliance parts.
"I decided not to raise up my prices to keep my customers happy, but I basically had to cut off my service area," he said. "Everything is going up. Everything is connected to the gas price."
It's a dilemma businesses across Illinois and the country have been grappling with. As Gadzhov indicates, it is not just at the gas pump where consumers are seeing higher prices. Higher transportation costs are raising prices on everything from groceries to electronics.
At Primo Pizza and Catering in Barrington, owner Vince Grisi had to raise the delivery fee by 50 cents, along with just about everything on the menu. The joint's beef sandwich, for instance, was upped by $1 from $7.95.
With increased costs on the distributor end -- eggs, cheese, flour, milk and more -- Grisi said he held off on raising his prices for as long as he could.
The rising costs hit Primo Pizza at an inopportune time. The restaurant's busy season typically doesn't start until September, and as a result, staff workers have seen some cuts to their hours.
"Half the battle sometimes is just trying to put gas in our vehicles," said manager Rocky Arebalo, who uses his personal car to help with deliveries.
Like Primo Pizza, many other small businesses are similarly upping their prices, said Geraldi Aglipay, the Great Lakes regional administrator for the Small Business Administration.
Aglipay said there are a range of other cost-saving measures businesses can consider, such as negotiating with suppliers to condense goods into fewer deliveries and for business owners who drive, using navigation apps to find fuel efficient routes.
"We want to encourage small businesses to have a plan to manage not only their operations, but their cash flow," she said. "That is a challenge for small businesses, which is why we encourage them to work with our resource partners and with SBA to find those cost-saving measures."
Aglipay said business owners can set up free or low-cost counseling sessions at one of the 35 small business development centers in Illinois to explore what changes might make the most sense for them.
Larger businesses have also raised delivery charges. In March, Uber rolled out a temporary fuel surcharge to help alleviate the sting of gas prices for its drivers and couriers.
"Our hope is that this temporary measure helps ease the burden, and we continue to listen to feedback and may make changes in the future," Uber spokesperson Lara Sisselman said in a statement.
Sisselman added that the company is also looking to bolster its efforts to help drivers make the switch to electric vehicles. Last year, Uber partnered with Hertz to make up to 50,000 all-electric Teslas available to rent for its drivers by 2030.
Finding efficient routes is a strategy larger businesses use as well. United Parcel Service, for instance, uses their own technology called on-road integrated optimization and navigation to reduce fuel usage.
UPS uses the algorithm to calculate the most efficient way to configure each delivery route before drivers leave for the day, spokesperson Karen Hill said in a statement.
Hill added that UPS drivers are trained to limit idle time and turn their vehicles off when they can. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, "personal-vehicle idling wastes about 3 billion gallons of fuel -- generating around 30 million tons of CO2 annually in the United States."
Illinois is the fifth-largest energy-consuming state in the nation, and our transportation sector takes up the largest share of its carbon dioxide emissions, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The Department of Energy provides a number of mileage tips at https://tinyurl.com/DOEMileageTips. Guidance includes avoiding hauling cargo on your roof, removing excess weight and using cruise control.
• Jenny Whidden is a climate change and environment writer working with the Daily Herald through a partnership with Report For America. To contribute to the costs of the project, see https://www.reportforamerica.org/newsrooms/daily-herald-4/