Any clear-headed mathematician will tell you otherwise, but maybe the Mobil filling station at Oak Street and Brundage Lane really is lucky.
Last week, David Riley was working the register inside the station's convenience store when a woman walked in from a nearby bar to pick up "scratcher" lottery tickets. Before leaving she made a special request: Could she rub the top of his head, just for luck? Sure, he said.
Not long after, the woman returned to redeem her winnings and bought more tickets. Three or four times this happened, Riley said, and each time she returned a winner.
"Maybe we just have that luck. I don't know," he said.
Call it luck, call it probability, call it good business strategy: For whatever reason, certain local retailers do a lot of repeat sales of lottery tickets to customers who are convinced some stores are more likely than others to sell a winning lottery ticket.
In a way, they're right. The more tickets a store sells, the more winners it's destined to have. And when customers win, word spreads about where they bought tickets, which can drive not only ticket sales but also purchases of gasoline, potato chips, beer, etc.
The California State Lottery even dedicates part of its website — www.calottery.com/lucky-retailers — to highlighting stores with the winningest record of ticket sales.
Lottery players can type in a city or ZIP code to look up which stores during the previous calendar year sold at least one ticket worth $100,000 or more, which ones sold an average of 400 or more winning tickets per week and which paid out an average of $4,000 in winnings per week.
The Mobil where Riley works next to Highway 99 made the list by fulfilling the two latter qualifications. But that wasn't enough to impress Peggy Limi, who lives nearby and stopped by to fill up on gas Monday. She buys her lottery tickets at the Mobil just off the 99 at Taft Highway. Why? Because one time she bought a winner there.
"I think it's all about luck," the Greenfield resident said. "Someone's got to win eventually."
A lot of people hope so, especially with a record-breaking $1.6 billion Mega Millions jackpot waiting to be won. No one won the previous jackpot at Friday's drawing and so another drawing will take place Tuesday.
Selling a winning Mega Millions ticket can mean big bucks for a retailer. The state lottery gives half of 1 percent of a customer's haul to the retailer who sold the winning ticket, up to a limit of $1 million. That figure does not include sales commissions on all ticket purchases, including scratchers. Different lottery games can pay different bonus commissions to retailers.
Howard's Mini Mart No. 6 has quite the reputation as a lucky retailer — so much so, owner Justine Sor said, that last week someone drove all the way from Las Vegas just to buy a ticket at her store at 4201 Belle Terrace. Other customers regularly drive from as far away as Delano and Tehachapi, she said.
Next to the sales counter she posts winning tickets, some of them signed by the person who won. "This is our hall of fame," she said.
On Friday, with the Mega Millions jackpot hovering at about $1 billion, all three of her sales registers hummed busily. The store's parking lot looked "like a Black Friday," she said, referring to the busy holiday shopping event the day after Thanksgiving. She added that lottery customers also cash checks at the store and buy a fair amount of beer, soda and chips.
On Monday, customer Romy "The Homey" Romero drove all the way from her home in northeast Bakersfield to buy lottery tickets at Sor's store. After buying $50 to $100 in scratchers, she said she always gets at least some level of winner when she buys a ticket from Sor.
"I've been coming here for 20 years," she said. "This is a lucky store."
Another customer, northeast Bakersfield resident Norberto Orendain, plunked down $20 Monday for Mega Millions tickets and another $20 for Powerball tickets, which offer a shot at a $620 million jackpot at the next drawing Wednesday.
But he's not the typical lottery customer at Sor's store. Convinced that he himself is lucky, along with his grandfather, who years ago won a big lottery payout in Mexico, Orendain spends $40 to $80 per week on the lottery.
But he's not particular about where he buys tickets. He buys them wherever he happens to be at the moment.
"I buy tickets everywhere," he said.