By on May 8, 2015

Landscape

There are two states in the U.S. where one is legally barred from pumping their own gas. One of those states, Oregon, may change this for some motorists.

While those visiting Portlandia will still have to let the attendant do all the work, Rep. Cliff Bentz of Ontario, Ore. is sponsoring a bill — HB 3011 — that would rescind the 64-year-old ban in rural areas where having someone ready to pump gas 24/7 is an impossibility, The Seattle Times reports. Bentz likens the issue to a similar instance affecting EV owners:

You go around eastern Oregon counties, you find more and more situations where there isn’t any fuel. And it’s not unlike the situation electric-car owners find themselves in now.

The measure, which was passed unanimously 60-0 in the state house, would apply to counties with fewer than 40,000 residents. The figure accounts for nearly all of eastern Oregon, and half of the state’s counties overall.

The self-service ban in Oregon goes back to 1951, and lists 17 reasons for existing, such as: proclaiming only trained professionals should pump gas; preventing discrimination against the poor, the elderly and the disabled; and providing employment, especially for young people. Attempts to rescind the ban have failed thus far, scaring legislators from proposing pro-self-service bills since 2003.

HB 3011 is awaiting a committee hearing in the state senate as of this writing.

[Photo credit: David Falconer/U.S. National Archives and Records Registration/CC PD 1.0]

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81 Comments on “Oregon May Allow Self-Service Gas For Rural Counties...”


  • avatar
    jbltg

    The other state that does not permit self-service is New Joisey, of all places. Kind of a nice, old-fashioned small luxury.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      This is one of the things I miss from living in New Jersey. I HATE pumping my own gas, especially when it’s cold out. In states where they don’t have this law, full service pumps have gone the way of the dodo. And in New Jersey this law did not seem to affect the price of gas (at the time I lived there; I don’t know if that’s still the case) when compared to other states’ prices.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        And I hate having to wait while the ONE GUY on duty pumps fuel in ten cars – and god help us all if someone’s filler/tank is finicky and the pump needs to be babysat through the process*.

        (* Like happens with some pump on my SuperDuty…)

      • 0 avatar

        I’m the complete opposite. I grew up in NJ, and my family still lives there, so I’m up there pretty regularly. I hate not being able to pump my own gas. In my new home state of Maryland, I pull up to the pump, pump, and leave. It usually takes twice as long in NJ, because I have to wait for the attendant to get to me, and then wait again after it’s done pumping for him to take the hose out and finish the transaction.

        Gas is cheaper in NJ because it has significantly lower taxes than other states (14 cents vs 44 in NY)

        http://www.api.org/~/media/files/statistics/statemotorfuel-onepagers-apr-2015.pdf

      • 0 avatar

        New Jersey is surrounded by states with higher fuel taxes. So out of our pocket is the same, but it could be even less. Though I’m sure New Jersey would just raise their taxes so the public wouldn’t be shocked with how much labor cost! If you figure a guy can probably pump a car every five minutes, that’s 12 an hour (at full capacity). with $7.15 wage you’re at $0.60 per car, or maybe 4-5 cents per gallon. If you are’t hitting your 12 car an hour quota that price will quickly rise. Sure they can do other things while waiting, but it’s still an unneeded expense. It’s gone out of fashion because when you see the price of full service next to self service most people pump it themselves.

      • 0 avatar
        carve

        Having someone pump your gas is slower and more expensive. Faster is a more important luxury than lazier.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      @jbltg,
      Why not allow both self serve and attendant service? This will allow for you to use service stations that offer the service you expect.

      Let the consumer choose. Why have governments interfere with business to this level of micro-management of an industry?

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        They do there are no laws that prevent full service however full serv stations are quite rare since very few people aren’t willing to pay the additional price.

      • 0 avatar
        jbltg

        That is allowed here in California, but very few stations offer it, nor have I witnessed it ever at the ones that do. Probably a combination of higher price and finding someone to staff it makes it rare. However, I can think of any number of people that I know here in LA whom I cannot even imagine pumping their own gas, let alone any number of other humble activities. Clearly, they manage somehow.

        A number years ago, while driving a rented Focus in very rural Vermont, an attendant at a very modest station started the process before I was halfway out of the car. I nearly fell over with surprise. May as well go and use the restroom, then.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        “Why not allow both self serve and attendant service?”
        – They do. However, so few people are willing to opt for it that there’s no point in offering it.

        A better option to requiring someone else pump your gas is to require all gas stations to have an attendant on duty if desired but allow people to pump their own gas.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          @redav,
          ????

          Why is it that 48 other states, other countries this isn’t so? We pump our own gas. Someone or something has to pay for these people.

          They are a wasted resource. People must wait to be served. When an efficient system of having all the pumps running filling cars is better for business, which means the consumer is the winner.

          What is influencing this?

          I do think you should maybe revisit your belief.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            Did you read my post?

            A better option than REQUIRING SOMEONE ELSE TO PUMP YOUR GAS…

          • 0 avatar
            Exfordtech

            In the peoples republic of Massachusetts most stations are self serve, and for protection of the physically impaired the attendant will pump the gas at no additional charge. Some stations offer both full and self serve and a very few remain full serve. An attendant is much more beneficial (from a profit standpoint) working the convenience store that goes with the majority of gas stations. I do agree that prohibiting self service is a bit too intrusive, but I don’t live in either Oregon or NJ. The beauty of the democratic process is that if I lived in either of those states I could choose to work against those laws or take advantage of the freedom in good ol’ ‘merica and move to another of the the less tyrannical 48 states available to me.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      Say ‘Joisey’ to anyone living in NJ and we promise to punch your face in.

    • 0 avatar
      vvk

      Every time I am in NJ, I have to remind myself not to get gas because I HATE waiting in line to have the underpaid attendant fill up my car. I takes many times longer, it is extremely inconvenient and it makes me feel bad. Yesterday I had to do it because I was running on fumes. It their usual fashion the guy starts the pump and walks away. Usually I am right there holding the nozzle and doing as much as I can myself (the pump requires an attendant card, so I cannot do the whole thing myself.) Yesterday, however, the gas station guy looked so threatening that I decided to stay in the car with my family. Big mistake. Suddenly, I hear fluid splashing and look in the mirror. What do you know, the nozzle he left unattended failed to shut off and gas was splashing out of my gas tank all over my car. I jumped out and shut off the nozzle. HOW IS THIS SAFER? Professionals MY ASS. These people are underpaid immigrants who do not speak English 99% of the time. They leave the pump unattended and are usually spread very thin between many simultaneous customers. If anything happens, like it did, the attendant is not ever there! It is a major inconvenience, wastes my time and is very unsafe. From now on, I will be absolutely sure to gas up at higher price in Pennsylvania before crossing over the border.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Volvo with that much chrome trim in my life.

  • avatar

    My guess it’s a 164… one of my childhood favorites.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      I think it’s a 2 series but it’s old, for sure. Maybe a ’76 or so?

      Maybe the yellow vehicle ahead of the black Volvo is another Volvo, too?

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Could be either, honestly.

        They both had lights like that in that era (post 73 facelift on the 164), and I can’t tell the rear ends apart.

        The fronts are … distinctive.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          Pretty sure that in the US only the 164 combined that back end with small bumpers. The 244 showed up as a ’75 with 5 mph bumpers. This car is almost certainly a ’73 164E with fuel injection badges. Also, this image portrays the oil shock of 1973-1974, and there were no Volvo 244s to photograph yet. See the “Is Your Number Even Today?” sign?

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        That was my first thought, but the back window is wrong, too curved for a Volvo. I’m thinking Jag XJ6, although you don’t see many of them in yellow.

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          Good eyes spotting the window difference on the yellow one (wraparound rear window) and XJ6 is a good possibility.

          Hard to tell if the green one is a 144 or a 164, because the front end doesn’t look long enough to me to be a 164… I could be wrong though and that sign is blocking much of the front clip. On the other hand, the badges are indiscernible to say for sure one way or the other. My 142 had a little badge just behind the front wheel–just like on this one–but I can’t remember what the badges on the rear end looked like.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            The roof is some sort of lens distortion. The yellow car is a Volvo too. Check out the mudflaps, the kamm tail, and the bumper.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      It’s a 164. The small chrome triangle between the rear quarter and the back window is the tell. Never thought that bit of trivia would come in handy.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I do think this type of legislation is anti competitive for the consumer.

    I do believe companies should be allow to have attendants at the gas pumps, but let the consumer choose to use it and pay for the additional service.

    I do know in NJ it is the same.

    Systems and processes now are in place to make refueling your own vehicle quite an effortless activity.

    Maybe someone should look at the consumer and not worry about inefficient practices.

    Well, this is one case where the Luddites won.

  • avatar

    In New Jersey you get gas pumped by Omar, Guido or Ramon but in Oregon it’s pumped by teen aged girls…in short shorts. (At least it was where I filled up in La Grande last summer)

  • avatar
    brianyates

    Here in British Columbia we have self serve and attendants service at the same stations. We also have to prepay for our gas, this law was brought in by the provincial government after a gas station employee was dragged to his death by a fleeing driver who drove off without paying. It’s not an inconvenience.

    • 0 avatar
      stuntmonkey

      My municipality mandates full-serve at all stations. It’s moot, because if you want to pay by debit it’s moot bc of privacy, and if you are keying in your pin at the terminal you are already one step closer to grabbing the pump yourself. Despite my local by-laws, I haven’t had anybody else pump my gas except me for years. It’s actually better this way; the municipalities with self-serve don’t allow the pumps to have the “click it and walk away” mechanism.

    • 0 avatar
      Delta9A1

      The self-serve/full serve choice and pre-pay is fine, but it would be nice if the BC government allowed the pump lock on self-serve nozzles, so we could at least clean our windshields while the tank was filling! The BC government clearly believes only full-serve attendants have the skill necessary to work a gas pump trigger lock. Makes me even happier to fill my tank in Point Roberts, WA.

  • avatar
    hf_auto

    Too bad this isn’t state-wide. Any time I’m going to/through Oregon, I fill up at the border before heading in. I’m not giving my pin number to an attendant, so I get out of the car anyway. All they’re doing is complicating the transaction.

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      Me too, or stop at the reservation between Pendleton and Cabbage Hill (the really twisty portion on 84).

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Have him put it through as credit and you don’t need to give out the PIN.

      • 0 avatar
        Roberto Esponja

        Exactly.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Also, if it is credit, they don’t put a hold on a large amount in your account, which could then lead to NSF issues for a later purchase.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          redav, in actuality, if you pay with debit they’ll immediately take the actual amount of the purchase out of your account. What you’re talking about happens when you process a debit card as credit. I know this from experience, unfortunately (the dark days during my divorce when my checking account always had a $2.13 balance the Thursday before my next paycheck). My bank was nice enough to rescind all the fees because I’d never messed up my account before.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      I pay with my debit card in Oregon all the time (literally, since I live here).

      You don’t give an attendant your PIN; they run it as if it was credit. By which I mean, they’re not gonna ask, and they’d look at you like you grew another head if you TRIED to give them a PIN.

      (The exception being ARCO, where you, in my experience, MUST go in to pay or use the pay kiosk, because ARCO no do credit.)

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Arco now accepts credit cards, at least in WA and I wish the never started doing that again. When they started accepting credit cards around here they also put a 10 cent per gallon price increase when you do so. It did not take long at all for most of their competitors to do the same. Charging a premium to use a credit card had pretty much vanished several years in my area.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    I like this subsection of the law.

    “(c) Increases self-service dispensing and thereby decreases maintenance checks by attendants, which results in neglect of maintenance, endangering both the customer and other motorists and resulting in unnecessary and costly repairs;”

    I have never seen an attendant at an OR station check oil, clean windshield check tire pressure ect.

    This part is great too.

    “Appropriate safety standards often are unenforceable at retail self-service stations in other states because cashiers are often unable to maintain a clear view of and give undivided attention to the dispensing of Class 1 flammable liquids by customers;”

    It is much less safe because of the attendants in OR. One attendant needs to cover 4-8 pumps and cars at a time. So they stick the nozzle in the car and pay absolutely no attention to it. They run over to the next vehicle and get it started and then the next and finally come back to your car after paying zero attention to what is happening for sometimes several minutes. It also means that if the auto shut off pops prematurely you can take half a day getting a sort of full tank.

    I also do not think this will do any good for the availability of fuel in rural areas. In rural areas they often get away charging a significant premium for fuel anyway and if the volume is really that low then they don’t need an extra person, the cashier and attendant can be the same person just as it was at stations long ago.

    Overall I think it is a good foothold and after a few years it may hopefully spread to all of OR.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      I have gotten a windshield cleaning, when they’re bored.

      That’s also because the place in question was stoppped at for convenience, not low price, and I think they actually were “full serve”.

      But otherwise? No, never.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Now that I think about it there are typically “mini serve” signs at those traditional stations that do offer full service, and have actual service bays, which are as far and few between in OR as anywhere from what I’ve seen.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      The text of the statute makes a fair point about the handicapped.

      Self-service really is a tax on the disabled and those who otherwise can’t use the pumps themselves. When the cost of full serve can’t be amortized across a large number of sales, it becomes quite costly for those who must use it to get their tanks filled.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        Fair point. But does every pump need an attendant to ensure the needs of the handicapped are met?

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          An easy solution would be to offer free full-service to the disabled. (Of course, some customers would abuse it, but most wouldn’t.)

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            So if you have a handicapped plate, you pay the same as self-serve, and if you don’t you pay extra.

            I’m in.

          • 0 avatar

            I’ve seen plenty of self serve stations that have a button to call an attendant if you are handicapped, or tell you to honk your horn if you need help.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            In WA that is the law, though many places are exempt since they do not normally provide refueling service.

            http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=49.60.360

            Costco even though they would probably be technically exempt will do it and of course they do not have a way to charge more.

            I know way back when I was in college and working at an old school service station I pumped gas at the self serve island on one or two occasions for a qualified person.

    • 0 avatar
      Exfordtech

      Like the maintenance check of short sticking your dipstick and then selling you a quart of air (remember when oil came in cans and you needed a spout to puncture the top?) as done in the old days pre oil crisis?

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Calling Captain No Brainer…

    …and if they want to make life easier for poor folks, I’d say being able to buy gas cheaper would be one easy way. I think the underpriveleged in Oregon can handle it.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      I’ve been traveling between Washington and Oregon for years, I haven’t noticed much difference in pricing between the two states.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I just did a quick comparison of the price of fuel in Oregon with neighboring states (aside from California, which is a unique case and can’t be directly compared with other states), while adjusting for differences in state taxes. Not really a difference at all. This full service thing doesn’t seem to cost them anything.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    With low end jobs continuing to be offshored or eliminated by automation, I’m surprised the fedgov hasn’t mandated gas pump attendants nationwide.

  • avatar
    skor

    Lived in Jersey my entire life. Always pump my own gas. Only had a patriot try and stop me a couple of times.

  • avatar
    PentastarPride

    This is a shining example of too much governmental power and how it intrudes in our lives. It isn’t a big deal to have someone pump our gas, but it’s just the idea of the micromanagement of government at all levels.

    “Only trained professionals should pump gas?”: Is it really rocket science to pump gas? I know that, overall, our country has become less intelligent, but it’s a simple task. If someone’s an imbecile enough to blow the station up pumping their own gas, maybe they shouldn’t be driving to begin with. I know, it’s not exactly the safest thing to pump gasoline. But tasks like mowing a lawn with a lawn mower, grilling stuff on a gas grill or grinding up scraps in the garbage disposal isn’t exactly safe either. Does that mean that soon, we’ll have to hire “professionals” to perform these simple, everyday jobs for us to keep us safe?

    “Preventing discrimination against the poor, the elderly and the disabled?” I’d like to know where that came from. Exactly how does having self-service pumps fester discrimination upon these protected classes? Did they throw this in to get more lawmakers on board to pass the law? Because anything with “discrimination” in it will have everyone’s attention.

    “Providing employment, especially for young people?” So government creates a job by a mandate. The gas stations are required to pay for someone to fill an unnecessary position at their expense. It may not be a huge expense to most stations, but businesses exist to turn a profit, not to satisfy the motives of the government. The funny thing is, this very job that Oregon’s legislation covets will almost always pay minimum wage, which will have a relatively trivial effect on the overall economy of the state.

    How much do you want to bet that the same Oregon Legislature (and the state government as a whole) that’s being so pedantic over this useless law has also successfully passed and maintained a balanced budget and has the state in the black (without raising any taxes)?

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    People in OR must be at an early stage of evolution if they can’t be trusted pumping their own gas. How do they fill their lawn mower at home? Or is there a law they need to bring it to a gas station to have filled by certified attendant? Is there some gas attendant training and certification? I’m sure it is a 5 year apprenticeship to learn how to pump gas. Is that what the U of OR petrol engineering degrees are for?

    What about bathroom use? Are they allowed to do that without an attendant now as well? I mean in the bathroom you have to touch unsanitary body parts, dispose of items that are part of raw sewage, have pathogens. An EPA certified attendant should handle all that since a normal person can’t be trusted with that.

    But I’m sure you can buy guns easily and use without attendant. After all, more people die pumping gas than being shot….

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    This is like Pennsylvania having beer distributors and state stores and Ohio selling the stuff in gas stations.

    PA claims that teenagers will buy beer and liquor unless they have to buy it, by the case, from an “authorized” store, or something.

    Ohio knows better.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    The fact that only 2 states prohibit pumping your own gas is indicative of what a stupid, old law this is, back in the day, you had to know how to turn on the pumps and you could easily create a big mess, not so with modern pumps.

  • avatar
    sintekk

    In the poorer areas of Cleveland we still have exclusively full-service stations in the form of older garages that can’t afford to upgrade their pumps to ones that can calculate current gas prices. When it’s miserable and cold out I patronize these spots and have no problem tipping the attendant a buck or two.

  • avatar
    ktm

    It’s not an issue of cost, at least for me, but rather convenience. As another poster noted, many times there is just ONE attendant which, for a rural station without a lot of patronage is just fine. However, try filling up around PDX (which, by the way, has a dearth of stations around it) and you could be waiting for a while.

    While it is convenient to be able to go in and take care of other business such as using the restroom or grabbing some snacks, the inconvenience outweighs this benefit.

    See, they fill you up in the order you arrive. If you pull up to the first pump since there is a car ahead of you, you will be fulled second, third, etc. depending on your overall order. Now, the car ahead of you pulls away and another pulls in front of you and yet another behind you (yes, I’ve had this happen a few times). You are essentially boxed in until the car in front of you is fueled, which could be a while depending on their order.

    This is more an issue with the lack of stations (around PDX again), but it is an issue with keeping everything flowing.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Just had the PDX experience last week but all together different. I pulled into a Shell station and knew the rules, but nobody came out. Can’t really blame them as it was 4AM and chilly. So after waiting several minutes I got out, swiped my credit card and opened the filler door. By then an attendant finally came out and pumped my gas. I waited about 10X longer then it took to put only 3 gallons into my rental to ensure Hertz didn’t ding me for it not being “full”. The whole process was stupid and a huge waste of time. The only advantage was safety factor since there was a sketchy character wondering around and talking to himself in the area.

      After I left I wondered what would have happened if I pulled up with my truck, my boat and a some jerry cans? I assume other people would be pissed off if I occupied the attendant with 3 things to fill.

  • avatar
    CliffG

    Oregon is really fun on a bike. You pull up, wait for the attendant to come over to you and hand you the hose, and then you fill it up yourself because he/she ain’t gonna touch your bike. The price of gas may not be that different between Oregon and Washington because of the difference in gas tax. WA has about the highest in the country. Oregon has some fabulous driving/riding roads so make the trek.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I always make sure I’m full up before driving into Oregon. Attendants tend to be sloppy with the nozzle and bang it against the car, causing scratches.

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    I’m gonna come right out and say it:

    The self-serve bans of OR and NJ are idiotic laws. I thought so at first glance, and I still think so after reading all the comments. Total make-work law if ever there was one. Good luck finding an economist who thinks they’re a good idea.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    You’re not allowed to pump your own gas in Korea. There are always two or three younger guys working (never saw any women there, probably because this is a “dirty” job. They have their branded overalls and white gloves on, always made me feel like a Nascar driver approaching the pit!

    And you get a present when you buy gas. It might be a notebook, or a thing of tissues, or some stickers, or perhaps a toy or keychain. Always a different surprise!

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Also that Volvo 1__ or 2__ whichever it may be, looks very solid and expensive. You could easily put a Mercedes badge on the back of that thing.

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