Q: Why are gasoline prices put at nine-tenths of a cent? If I bought exactly one gallon, would I get one-tenth of a cent in change? Do oil companies keep the change? — Anonymous.
A: Fractional pricing, as it is called, began after the first increase in the federal gasoline tax from 1 cent to 1.5 cents per gallon in 1933.
The fraction appealed to Depression-era dealers, says the American Petroleum Institute.
And, no doubt, many people think $3.399 per gallon just feels like a much better deal than $3.40 per gallon.
Competition among gas stations can be fierce, as The Courier reported last fall.
“Overall, the average fuel retailer today makes about 3 cents per gallon selling gas,” said Jeff Lenard, vice president of the National Association of Convenience Stores.
“That 0.9 cent in the price makes up about 30 percent of a typical store’s profits selling fuel in an incredibly competitive marketplace,” Lenard said.
In 1985, some in Iowa tried to stop fractional pricing, but the legislation failed.
As for getting one-tenth of a penny in change for precisely one gallon of gasoline, try it and please report back to “Just Ask.” — Dan Hartzell, The Morning Call, Allentown, Pa.
Q: Where did Findlay dump the snow from Main Street? What about the snow on the airport’s runways? “‘ Mark Donaldson, Findlay.
A: There’s plenty of room at the Brandman property off Cory Street and at the airport. “‘ Paul E. Schmelzer, city safety-service director.
Q: Where did the term “caught red-handed” come from? — Michael J. LaRocco, Tallahassee, Fla.
A: It’s Scottish, dating to the 1400s, and means having blood on one’s hands after a murder or after poaching.
Sir George Mackenzie used it in a 1674 discourse on Scottish criminal laws and customs: “If he be not taken red-hand the sheriff cannot proceed against him.”
And Sir Walter Scott used it in his classic “Ivanhoe” in 1819: “I did but tie one fellow, who was taken redhanded and in the fact, to the horns of a wild stag.” — The Phrase Finder.
Q: Who was Virginia named after?
A: England’s Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603), “the virgin queen.”
Q: Are Illinois and New Jersey the most politically corrupt states?
A: Not even close.
Based on convictions of public officials per capita, the five most corrupt are: North Dakota, Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Montana. Ohio ranks 16th.
Based on the number of public officials convicted between 1998 and 2007, they are: Florida, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, and California and Ohio (tied).
By the way, always near the bottom of corruption lists are Washington, Oregon, Minnesota, Utah, Nebraska and New Hampshire. — The Washington Post.
Q: Why were the stars in a circle in the first U.S. flag?
A: Historians think it showed the colonies were equal.
George Washington reportedly said, “Let the 13 stars in a circle stand as a new constellation in the heavens.” — Independence Hall Association.
Q: What did Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) say?
A: “To err is human, to repent divine, to persist devilish.”
Persist in asking Send an E-mail to justask or Just Ask, The Courier, P.O. Box 609, Findlay, OH 45839.