Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Pay Before You Pump? Not Me!

How annoying is this? You pull up at the gas station needing gas. You want to fill up the tank, but you want to pay in cash. Pay at the pump is great if you're using a credit or debit card, but you can't pay at the pump with cash. (There used to be a gas station here in town with a bill acceptor that would allow you to pay at the pump with cash, but they removed the feature because of reliability issues.) So you want to fill up your tank, which at $2.99 per gallon will cost you what? $20 plus? Sure.

Then you see the sign on the pump: PAY FIRST, THEN PUMP. Okay, now you have to be some kind of Stephen Hawking or Merlin the Magician to fill up your tank, because they want you to PAY for the gasoline you're going to buy before you even know how much you need.

I can't tell you how much this practice annoys me! You can go inside and give them a twenty dollar bill, but when the pump shuts off at the twenty dollar mark you'll have somewhere between half and three quarters of a tank. Not what you wanted if you wanted to fill it up. Or, you can give them two twenties, pump your gas, then go back inside and ask for your change. Inconvenience. Again, not what you wanted.

How about a little contrast, or comparison. I'm a Retail Store Manager. What if you walked into my store and an Associate met you in the foyer. "I'm sorry, dear customer, but you'll need to pay before you shop. How much would you like to buy today?" Any idea? Do you give them a twenty dollar bill and limit yourself to twenty bucks as you shop? Or do you trust them with a hundred and expect change when you leave?

Neither, I'm guessing. Instead, you probably would do the same thing I do when I pull up to a pump that asks me to pay before pumping: I go to another gas station that trusts me to pump my gas BEFORE I pay.

I know that drive-offs can be a problem, but so is shoplifting. Prepay is, in my opinion, not an acceptable way to prevent theft. You don't ask a customer to prepay at a store or restaurant as insurance in case they should decide to take something without paying for it. You shouldn't be able to so at a gas station, either.

You know, there was a time long ago when the gas stations actually had employees that would come out to your car, pump the gas for you, and collect your money without you ever having to leave the comfort of your vehicle (many of you have probably never experienced such a thing). They would even clean your windshield and check the oil for you while the gas was pumping. Imagine that! They used to be called Service Stations, not gas stations. Customer service was great, and I'll just bet you that there were virtually no drive-offs then. Now that the gas station owners have decided that they would rather not provide such exceptional (and what should be expected) service to their customers, we have to do their job for them.

We get out of the car. Go inside. Make a guess on how much gas the tank will hold. Pay them some money. Go back outside. Pump the gas. If our guess was wrong (which it most likely will be), we either leave with less than we expected, or go back inside for our change.

Not me. I don't pay before I pump. If you trust me to pump before I pay, I won't drive-off. I'll pump, then pay. But if you require me to pay first, I will drive-off, straight to another gas station that hasn't forgotten that they are there to provide a service to their customers. Gas stations are a dime a dozen, and it's time they start giving us what we pay for, and at three bucks a gallon, we're paying for more than just gasoline!


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