NJ For Change

Monday, April 24, 2006

Pumping Your Own Gas?

Gov. Jon Corzine said he may consider lifting a 57-year-old law that makes New Jersey only one of two states where people can't pump their own gas. Supposedly, self-service might save people “as much as 5 cents a gallon” at the pump.

Do we pay more per gallon of gas in New Jersey (minus state tax) than consumers in states with self-service? That’s the question. It’s been my experience when self-service comes in gas prices are reduced for a short period and then go right back to the full service price. The price for full service is then priced considerably higher and eventually it becomes nearly impossible to find a gas station that will pump your gas.

Should there be a law against pumping your own gas? Probably not. But, I do like the convenience of sitting in my car, regardless of weather and having someone filler-up. No mess, no fuss, no dirty hands or gas spills on my clothes. Lift the consumer gas pumping ban and there goes one of the few niceties left in New Jersey. Also there goes who knows how many gas station jobs.

Actually, I always assumed the law wasn’t changed because of the impact it would have on the entry-level, low skill job pool and the problems people with disabilities have in other states finding assistance, even though it is required by law.

It will be interesting to see where Corzine’s idea goes – who will be for it, who will be against it. It’s probably just a head fake put out there as an “I feel your pain” and “I’m doing everything I can” PR move. We’ll see. I'm sure one day the law will be changed, just probably not in the near future.
5 Comments:
Anonymous Joe D said...

(In the past year, I've written two diatribes on this topic. This is kind of a "best of" compilation.)

I went to Philly recently and I was a little low on gas. I was running late, but I was too close to empty to leave it to chance that I would run out.

I pulled off Harbison Avenue up to a pump at a BP station. I jumped out of my car, slid my card in the machine, pumped $10 worth, pushed NO receipt, and drove off. Time elapsed: 3 minutes tops.

Notice that I DIDN'T have to:
1. Wait for an attendant to notice me.
2. Wait for him to finish flirting with the female customer/coworker/crack whore.
3. Wait for him to actually come up to my window.
4. Tell him what I want and how I planned to pay for it.
5. Wait for him to return to the car when the gas clicks off.
6. Wait for him to come back to my window to get my card from me.
7. Wait while he runs my card.
8. Wait for him to come back with a charge slip to sign.
9. Sign the charge slip.
10. Wait for him to figure out how to separate those two pieces of paper that aren't even attached to each other.

Now, I know you people like having your gas pumped for you. I know you don't want to get out of the car, you don't like the smell of gas, etc. etc. I don't blame you, and I want you to have that choice. But I also want to have MY choice.

The only reason you have the luxury of staying in your car while someone else does your dirty work is because the state government FORBIDS us from serving ourselves.

I know you also THINK that our gas is cheaper despite the fact that you get this wonderful service from these "professional" pump jockeys. In addition to the low fuel tax (one of the few taxes we have that IS low, for now) and the fact that we have so many refineries, I'd like to add that, although we in inland South Jersey are seldom burdened by them, the people in this state pay a good chunk of their "highway taxes" in the form of tolls. (Turnpike, Parkway, Expressway)

In the end, the MARKET will determine the price of gas, self-serve or not. If it didn't, wouldn't the NJ dealers have raised the price to the same level everyone else in the country is paying? Think about it.

Some will argue that we need to keep "full service" (when was the last time a gas attendant checked your oil or washed your windows?) so that we have jobs for unskilled laborers. Well, if that's what we need, why doesn't the law require us to hire MORE people to do things we can do ourselves? Remember when the clerk in the general store used to fetch the groceries from behind the counter FOR YOU? You used to crank the phone and some 40-something house frau with a deviated septum would plug in a wire to connect your call FOR YOU? Yes, we need to return to THOSE days...

Times change; jobs change. FINALLY, self-service checkouts are becoming popular in Acme, Shop Rite, and “public enemy number 1,” WalMart. You’re damn right, I use them, happily. And if you take a look at the checkout lines, you’ll see I’m not alone. I’ll bet if they offered both self-serve and full-serve, most people would eventually take the self-serve.

Apparently, self-service is opposed by gasoline retailers. If you haven't noticed lately, most gas station owners are self-employed foreigners and their families (the most notable exception in this area being Wawa). So who’s opposing self-serve, Wawa? Since when do you care about big companies like Wawa? Now, I’m sure the seniors have some pull here. Don’t mess with the old folks and AARP. But no one is saying we should take away full service as an option. Again, if the market demands it, the demand will be filled -- provided the government doesn’t interfere.

(By the way... Did you ever stop to think that when all these Middle-Eastern gas station owners abandon their businesses to go fight the great jihad, gas will not only be in short supply, but what is here we won’t know how to pump? Sorry, needed to lighten it up a little...)

The current proposal includes a stipulation there can't be a price difference of more than 5 cents per gallon between full-serve and self-serve. So let me get this straight... The savings would be LIMITED to 5 cents a gallon? The only people this would help would be the gas businesses. If you wanted to appeal to the PEOPLE, wouldn’t it make much more sense to REQUIRE a 5-cent-per-gallon difference? This would force the stations to pass on their savings to the customers. Of course, I object to government intervention in the free market, so I would oppose what I just proposed.

Anyway, fuel taxes are likely to be raised before long. So enjoy your self-service gasoline, while you can. It is one of the few "luxuries" the Garden State has to offer. And I hope that when you get mad enough to complain to your assemblyman about the tax increase, you'll think about demanding that the government stop interfering with your right to choose.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Chanice said...

Joe,
Thanks for coming by and letting us know how you feel on the self-serve gas. I hope you noticed that I said that there shouldn't be a law against pumping your own gas. I'm against government intervention, like banning smoking in private establishments, but that's another story. I’ve been on business and vacation in other states with the self-serve gas and frankly I don’t enjoy it and haven’t noticed much in the way of savings in time or money. I’m sure some day the law will be changed, but the state has about a zillion more problems to solve before speeding the filler up wait time reaches the top of the list.

11:20 PM  
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