Costco sues man in picketing spat

Retail giant claims retired psychologist has trespassed in protesting its prices at SLO gas station

nwilson@thetribunenews.comApril 5, 2011 

A San Luis Obispo man is incensed over what he calls misrepresentation in Costco’s marketing of its gas prices.

Costco has fired back with a lawsuit claiming Will Powers has trespassed on its property as he pickets outside the company’s gas station on Froom Ranch Road.

The company also alleges he called employees “fascist bastards,” even threatening that one worker would end up dead.

Powers has denied the allegations, asserting he protested lawfully in a public area and that he never threatened any store employee or member. Powers also said he called the employees “fascists,” but not “fascist bastards.”

Powers — a retired clinical psychologist — has been picketing for about three months and continues to hold up signs outside Costco’s gas station such as “Costco gas is a ripoff” and “Costco hates free speech.”

Powers said that Costco claims to offer the lowest prices in town in its marketing. He acknowledged that the store matches the lowest prices of other local gas stations.

But requiring a Costco membership card and a debit, Costco cash or American Express card to use the station actually increases the price of gas for Costco customers over prices at other stations, Powers claims.

Powers denies Costco’s claims in the lawsuit, saying that employees and police have designated an area for him to picket, where he has stood, and that he has never trespassed.

“Several times during my picketing, Costco people told me to stay off their property,” Powers said. “But they kept changing where they claimed that begins.”

The store also says that Powers has blocked traffic, which he has denied.

Powers is scheduled to return to Judge Dodie Harman’s courtroom at 10 a.m. today to oppose a temporary restraining order requested by Costco.

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