Gas giveaways are fast becoming a part of the 2022 celebrity landscape as Americans struggle with gas prices and the wealthy – some with a service to sell – are happy to help offset the cost of a fill up.
From Houston to Chicago to Tampa and all points in between, gas giveaways by celebrities are a new fixture in the financial pandemic landscape. From St. Petersburg’s Rod Wave to Houston’s Trae tha Truth to Chicago’s Vic Mensa, celebrities have been trying to ease the pain of rising (and falling and rising again) gas prices by hosting giveaways in connection with local Shell, BP, Sunoco and other gas stations.
The most recent big giveaway was from Houston-based rapper Lil Jairmy, who gave away gas to the first 100 cars to line up. Jairmy also offered activities for those who were waiting, including a live DJ, free food, and activities for children. Over Labor Day Weekend, Mensa gave away $10,000 worth of gas in Chicago to celebrate his new cannabis company 93BOYZ, which is also one a very few black-owned weed brands in the nation. They were able to fill some 200 cars.
From Mensa: “To celebrate the launch of 93BOYZ, the first black cannabis brand in Chicago, we went to the gas station on the block where I grew up and gave away $10,000 of free gas. At a time when many people are struggling to fill their tank, it felt good to be able to help the community in a real way.”
Trae Tha Truth, from Houston, filled up vehicles at a Third Ward Chevron, $50 per car maximum, as part of his Trae Day Weekend of philanthropy. Back in April, Rod Wave paid for $25,000 worth of gas at a Sunoco
As Trae told The Houston Chronicle: “”I’m always about giving back to the community. Right now, times are hard and it’s only right for us to do something that is really going to count for them.”
But rappers aren’t the only ones digging into the gas giveaway marketing (or philanthropy) plan. Everyone from political action committees to churches to credit unions to credit unions are tapping into high gas prices as a way to raise awareness of their organization for the services they offer. Philanthropists like Chicago’s Willie Wilson (an oft-mayoral hopeful), has given away over $1-million in free gas with no strings attached.
On one hand, gas giveaways are a gesture of goodwill and can genuinely help people who need a boost for the week. But critics of such giveaways say the traffic causes air pollution (from cars idling for hours in line) and harms vulnerable populations by slowing down public transit services. Those critics say people are better served with a gas card than by having to wait in line to get a fill up. In Chicago, for example, Wilson’s massive and frequent giveaways caused miles long traffic backups, leading locals to map out the locations and dates of future giveaways so as to avoid neighborhoods where such giveaways were occurring.
As Chicago historian Sherman “Dilla” Thomas wrote for The Triibe: “With so many cars struggling to find a place in line to receive the free gas at participating stations, the city had to deploy Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers to control the traffic. I don’t think I am out of line by saying that CPD has a strained relationship with the very residents who were in line for the free gas. That type of commotion could lead to a negative interactions with the police, and none of us want that. Not to mention that pulling squad cars off their beats to keep the peace for free gas giveaways is not a good use of taxpayer dollars.”
That said, the giveaways sponsored by rappers in the recent past did not appear to have the same amount of sheer intensity or the environmental impact of Wilson’s giveaways. Anecdotally speaking, from the looks – largely documented on Facebook and Twitter – of Mensa’s giveaway, smaller gas giveaways (in the $10,000 range) lead to better community results in part because the wait times simply aren’t as long.
Gas giveaways are marketing 101 in difficult financial times, and with prices still on the high side, it’s safe to say that as winter approaches and hurricane season deepens, such giveaways aren’t going anywhere soon. In fact, they might increase. And I predict that city dwellers will always line up for them.