Monday, March 31, 2008

New Poll! Self-Service Gas?

Readers of my blog may already know, as I have posted on this previously, but there are few things things that get under my skin as much as the prohibition on self-service gas in Oregon.

I find the arguments supporting the prohibition wanting:

Consumer safety? I don't believe that there is a rash of fires, explosions and injuries in the other 48 states that allow self-service gas.

Mothers with babies? (Why is it always mothers, what about us dads?) First, the many times when I was living in Colorado, schlepping babies and getting gas, I never once had a problem. Second, you could still mandate at least one full-service pump, though I think demand will be so weak that this will end up being mostly unused - which is why you rarely see full-service anymore in the self-service states.

Important for employment? You have got to be kidding, right? Oh, no? OK, well you can still tell gas stations they have to employ so many people per pump, etc. Sound absurd? It is! And no different than the prohibition on self-service gas. Why not tell all retail outlets that they have to employ a minimum number of people and eliminate all unemployment in Oregon?! Why did anyone think of that? Because doing so with either force wages down or (especially with a high minimum wage) eliminate some employers altogether likely lowering overall employment.

I am sure most of you are much more level headed than I about this issue, and perhaps I have it all wrong and this, in fact, is a precious quirk of Oregon that you all cherish. State Rep for Corvallis Sara Gelser seemed to think so when I asked her to please introduce legislation to change the law (she refused saying something crazy about mental health care and child welfare being more important - what is more important than letting me pump my own gas?).

So let me know what you think - vote!


Kari Chisholm said...

If we were inventing a new society from scratch, then sure... why not?

But we're not.

Rather, if we make the change now, one relevant question is: Who wins?

Basically, consumers would be giving away a big ol' chunk of change to the station owners -- and getting nothing in return.

Prices aren't any lower anywhere else. And there's no reason to believe that station owners would graciously cut gasoline prices rather than pocketing the profits themselves.

Patrick Emerson said...

Retail gas has consistantly been shown to be one of the most competitive retail sectors: it has an essentially homogenous product and very visible prices. So why should we not expect cost savings on the part of owners to be passed to consumers?

jessibeaucoup said...

When I was ten, we moved from Oregon to Kansas City. I remember how mortified my mother was that she would ::gasp:: have to pump her own gas!! What if the gas ruined her nice work suits??@@@!! In the end, she never ruined any clothing and she enjoyed that you get in and out much quicker when you pump your own.

I love pumping my own gas when I'm in Washington. I have a smart car and I HATE waiting for them to come back and take the darn thing out so I can get on my way. It really doesn't take long when you're only pumping in 7.5 gallons.

I vote for self-service all the way...

Patrick Emerson said...

You have a Smart car!?! That is so cool.

Me, I am waiting for someone to buy me a Tesla, then I'll never have to go to a gas station again!

BJDorr said...

Oh yeah, employment? Someone please explain to me why there is ONE pump attendant manning an eight-pump bay?

The time I spend at a self-serve gas station, paying with card at the pump: 3 minutes average.

The time I spend at a mini-serve station in Oregon: 8 minutes.

Oh, and one other thing: I am so annoyed by pump attendants instinctively "topping off" my tank so they can round out the nearest dollar amount.

Jeff Alworth said...

Wow, you really like poking bears, don't you?

The only argument that really persuades isn't political. The three you cite are smokescreens. It's because we know that this idiosyncracy marks us as Oregonians. It's a small thing, really beneath the level of seriousness, and we love it.

I am happily voting no in the poll--because I'm a proud Oregonian and in the consequence-free way of saying "up yours" to immigrants from California et al, nothing is easier.

Up yours!

Patrick Emerson said...

Jeff: We could be ideosyncratic in other ways: how about banning ATMs (danger of mugging), how about no self-service check-out lines (there must be some danger from the scanners) or how about no self service parking meters? Imagine if every corner in downtown Portland had a person with a little computer instead of the kisoks (danger of, um, getting confused and suffering mental distress)! Wow, imagine the employment we could create and we would be so lovably 'weird'!

Jeff Alworth said...

Sure, I'm high on additional ways to be idiosyncratic--especially since, following the Big Look, it seems sensible land-use planning is done--but keep your grimy mitts off my gas nozzle. Your idiosyncratic markers have to be time-tested and universally accepted as a marker. Your computer-man idea must prove itself through the decades (not to mention sarcasm) before I sign on.

Colin NĂ©ber Wilson said...

Honestly the only advantage to not pumping your own gas is getting to meet the characters that work at gas stations. A guy at ARCO downtown once gave me a baby tomato from a batch he had because I bought a full tank!

jessibeaucoup said...

I bought the first one in Oregon about a year ago... I was on the news and quoted in the Oregonian. You have your blog but I have my own, albeit minor, claim to fame;).

Believe me, I'd LOVE to have an electric car but they are current out of my budget. When I buy my next car in 7 - 10 years, it'll for sure be electric. By which time I anticipate having my home solar powered... I'd love to be as energy independent as possible.

darrelplant said...

I just got my smart car Friday, jesse, but I've been waiting for seven years since I first saw them in Amsterdam.

I think the argument that it's an "Oregonism" that we won't give up is about as silly as saying that the sales tax is something we should implement because everybody else does it. back when most states just threw their bottles out the windows of their cars (and the same was true of Oregon), we implemented the bottle bill and got reduction in litter and impetus for recycling programs in one fell swoop.

So you don't like having someone pump your gas, Patrick? Can you find any less-important economic topic to post about? Are you really in that much of a hurry?

Even when I was driving 40 miles round-trip every weekday in my pre-smart Ford Escort, I only had to fill up the tank once every eight or nine days. I've had to wait in grocery lines longer than I've ever had to wait for gas. Where's the fire?

Capt. Kirk said...

I think it should be a nationwide law. If gas prices meet $5.00 a gallon, it MUST be pumped. Prices are at a level that there should not be a 2-tier pricing system.