It is impossible for some people to separate the name British Petroleum from the oil leak disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. But when a man began protesting in front of a British Petroleum service station in Massachusetts last week, the station's owner launched his own campaign.
Michael Brophy of Hull, who teaches at the South Shore Collaborative in Hingham, took matters into his own hands last week, staging a one-man protest with homemade signs in front of a British Petroleum service station in Hingham.
Station owner Maurice Succar is fighting back. He has put a sign out in front of his station – which he has operated for 17 years – letting passers-by and customers know that boycotting his business is not going to hurt British Petroleum very much, if at all, but it would hurt him a lot.
“This is my business; this is my life,” said Succar in an interview at the station Tuesday morning while he was pumping gasoline for two customers. “I have a family to support. If you boycott me – you are only hurting me, not British Petroleum.”
Brophy has not been back this week, Succar said.
In an interview last week, Brophy said he began the protest because he could not believe local consumers were still buying gas from a BP gas station with all that’s taken place in the Gulf of Mexico.
He held a sign that read: “The people have the power to spend their money elsewhere.” Another of his signs read “Mr. President, take action. Take over. Change happens through action.”
Last week Brophy estimated the ratio of supporters to non-supporters who had driven by him on the corner, beeping their horns or yelling out the window, has been about 300 to one.
There was a mix of opinion from commenters weighing on a past story about Brophy’s protest.
Some praised Brophy’s efforts: “His action epitomizes the great adage, ‘think globally, act locally.'”
Others said he was doing more harm than good. “Agreed that it is important to teach local activism. However, Mr. Brophy should make it clear to his students that BP stations are franchises and boycotting the stations does more damage to local business owners than to the corporation,” one person wrote.
Succar said he has lost some old customers since the oil spill disaster but has also picked up some new ones who understand a boycott would be hurtful to a local business.
“I’ve been at this corner for 17 years,” Succar said. He explained that his station used to be a Getty Station until British Petroleum bought out Getty. He said BP is not a bad company in terms of how it treats its independent station owners. BP has done some renovations and improved the signage, among other improvements.
Succar explained that he has to sell a certain number of gallons of gasoline every week to make ends meet. If he does not sell enough gas, his bills do not go down.
“It’s like paying your mortgage,” he said.
The Hingham Journal