Chicago Millionaire Donates $200,000 In Free Gas For Residents

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.

A Chicago businessman is digging deep into his pockets to help relieve residents' pain at the pump, but his gesture has been a controversial one — and as local news reports show, one that has generated its fair share of traffic.

Related: The States With the Highest — and Lowest — Gas Taxes

Willie Wilson first shelled out $200,000 for drivers to fill up at 10 different gas stations on his dime on March 17, snarling traffic around the city as some motorists lined up well before sunrise. Now, Wilson is expanding his giveaway, giving $1 million to 46 different gas stations Thursday. 

Each driver will get $50 worth of free gas until the money is exhausted. For their part, participating gas stations are lowering their prices during the event, beginning at 7 a.m. 

Related: Drivers Flock to Costco, Sam's to Save on Gas — Is It Worth It?

While those driving away with a free tank of gas undoubtedly appreciate Wilson's generosity, others complained that they ran out of gas while waiting to fill their tank, and some officials are perturbed that he didn't choose to give out gas gift cards instead, helping avoid traffic jams. Two Chicago suburbs even said "thanks, but no thanks" to Wilson in order to skip traffic headaches.

Others say the stunt is probably just a ploy to gain votes for future campaign efforts. Wilson has a history of unsuccessful runs for mayor, senator, and even U.S. president.

The city says better traffic controls will be in place during Thursday's giveaway. 

Gallery: The Cost of Gas the Year You Were Born

Cheapism in the News