Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Oregon Self-Service Gas Petition!

Do you support allowing self-service gas in Oregon?  Let me know by signing the on-line petition which, if successful, I hope to send to state representatives in Salem.

To support this effort, go to the petition, it is simple and direct.


Chuck Butcher said...

So for a couple cents per gallon you propose to end how many jobs?

Jeff Alworth said...

I'll never sign! Power to the pumpers!

Jim Johnson said...

I've been selling real estate in Bend since 1981 and appreciate the convenience of having my gas pumped while I talk to my clients.


Dann Cutter said...

My question is why?

It shows no statistical evidence that it would save buyers money, would cost approx. 7000 jobs (about 500 stations have said they would comply with the ADA and keep an attendant on staff, the rest have indicated otherwise).

The time saved at the pump just doesn't seem track - if it were valuable to people, a market would exist which allowed for instant 'pump and go' service at select stations for a higher dollar amount. Clearly the time is not important to enough to generate a market response.

Clearly 'Self serve' works as a model - 48 states do so very well, but if I can have someone do something which I do not notice the marginal cost, but which makes a big impact in their lives, why take it away?

Personally, I am indifferent. I have lived both ways in my life - and I have adjusted my habits for each. That being said, come out to the coast for a winter; if you don't learn to appreciate the pump jockey, you are nuts! I get soaked just passing the guy my card.

Fred Thompson said...

I wasn't going to sign the petition until I read the comments. There is no reason why this initiative would pass when it has failed so often in the past. Besides, while this is an surprising arena in which to find externalities in consumption, they seem to exist. I for one am skeptical that the winners from compulsory full service could compensate the losers and still come out ahead, but it isn't a slam dunk.

The comments got my goat. Employing people is a cost not a benefit. If the benefit produced is less than the cost, it makes us worse not better off. (Idle labor is also wasteful, but that is a macroeconomic problem not an excuse for make work.)

The evidence is overwhelming, that self-service reduces costs and gas prices (after accounting for tax differences and transportation costs.) Based on Cutter's comment, self-service costs Oregonians about $200 million a year. Assuming more than half that would accrue to drivers, that works out to about $100 per car per year. (Because this is pretty competitive business, the rest of the $200 million would probably go to keeping more gas stations open.)

Clearly, the convenience of having one's gas pumped by someone else is worth more than $100 to a lot of folks -- Jim Johnson, my mother, my mother-in-law, even my wife. A majority of the population? Probably not.

So, if some people are willing to pay for service, why isn't it an option in states that permit self-service? The problem is that if only half of the users wanted service, it would cost them nearly twice as much. Many fewer folks are willing to pay $200 a year for self service. The result is that full service tends to price itself out of the market, except in areas with high concentrations of folks willing to pay for it (they still sell full service gas in Beverly Hills and Leisure World in California, for examples).

Because of the externality in consumption, the absence of full service where self-service is permitted isn't proof positive that self service is better than full service. But one would think that the burden of proof ought to be on the advocates of compulsory full service rather than vice versa.

Patrick Emerson said...

I have been pretty clear in the past, but I'll say it again: I have no desire to deny anyone a person to pump their gas, just as I don't want government to deny me my right to pump my own. If you want to have a legislation that gas stations have to have some mini-serve pumps - fine. Also, I think the jobs question is a canard - rigidities in markets lead only in inefficiencies - if it is such a good idea, why don't we see mandated employment all over the place?

Dann Cutter said...

Fred - Show me the evidence? Seriously, I have lived here 35 years and have yet to see a reasonably comprehensive study which convinced me that this $200 million exists. What I have seen is that the business model with staff and without is different, and that gas costs rarely enter into the equation. I would, with open arms, accept such a study which showed this increased cost. I accept intuitively there should be some cost - yet, historically it does not seem to exist in measurable number.

If we remove gas costs, then it is just a matter of how a business is mandated to be run - in Oregon for a variety of reasonably contestable reasons, we say you gotta have staff. Patrick would prefer no staff, but it's in for a penny, in for a pound. For self serve to exist, we lose full serve (and a law IS in place which mandates full serve options, called the ADA - but its hard and costly to enforce).

I never claim that employment is a benefit, simply that it is a marginally negated cost. There is a macro benefit in the work, to be sure - but that is an entirely separate argument (and to be sure, we historically used mandated employment all over the place). Thus I have a hard time, all factors included, seeing us worse off.

Thus, the only argument I really see here is Patrick's 'don't tread on me'. Which, on the basis of this being America, is a valid argument. But is has to go beyond 'because I can and should be able to do it myself'. WIll it save you time? What else is the rationalization for the change? The loss of safety (not all Oregon is Corvallis after all, and many pumps are now cash only)?


And I need to go write a case brief, so I can't continue this tonight... why can't school be like this - I have spent the last hour reasoning an argument on a topic I am completely indifferent about the overall law because the argument in itself is interesting.

Steve Buckstein said...

Whether self-serve gas will save consumers money or not, having the choice is important. I don't want to pump my own, but I won't be a party to denying others that option.

The rationale for Oregon's self-serve prohibition seems to be that "you'll set yourself on fire." I haven't seen that happening in other states, so I'll vote to end the ban.

szilvia said...

i think americans should have a choice if their want to pump their own gas or not. if you all are worried about some peope losing their jobs than here is my proposal, have both available! self service and full service...so everyone can be happy!

i just moved to oregon and i must say i have NEVER seen a line at a gas station before, it is rediculous that people have to wait there for ever to get gas. also to me it is degrading and insulting that i cannot pump my own gas ;something i have done my entire life. and also i got gased pumped into my car while my engine was still on!!!! that can be deadly, those morons didn't wait for me to turn off my engine...so to me this is a safety hazard as well...they go there work with a hangover and don't think clearly.

but again, i think if freedom is so praised here in the US i think than they should let people pump they own gas ....with both options everyone can be happy the lazy ones who don't mind waiting and waiting, and those who are ok to jump out and move on...

oh also once i was at the gas station and 2 peope arriving after me were served before me...don't tell me that doesn't piss you off!

Sean said...

I really don't care how much it saves or costs or about the jobs it creates. I simply think it's insulting to sit in your car waiting for someone to do something that you can do perfectly well in 48 other states. The law is obviously designed to create jobs especially reading the verbage that allows for motorcyclists to pump their own gas. You basically can dispense it in your tank but the attendant has to hand you the nozzle. Give me a break. And who enforces this? It's a $500 fine but I have talked to law enforcement and can't find one who's ever written a ticket for it. The only ones enforcing it are the pump jockeys trying to save their own jobs. I can pump my own gas in half the time it takes someone else to do it while trying to pump gas in 4-5 other vehicles. And I can put my gas cap back on my vehicle correctly every time so I don't spill gas everywhere. Dangerous? Give me a break. How is one guy watching 5 pumps safer than one purpose on each pump. I don't hear of people blowing up gas stations in any other states. I can't believe how lazy some people can be to not even get out of their car to pump gas. Are these the same people that get the handicap plates for a stubbed toe? I will gladly sign your petition.


szilvia said...

nicely said sean!

i met a woman the other day and we started talking, she said she used to live in oregon but now she lives in vancouver wa. so i told her "oh you are one of those lucky ones who can pump her own gas"
she replied, yeah, it was weird first for her, since she never had to do it in OR, but she said now she loves it and never would want to not do it (since it's faster and safer etc..)

so the bottom line is that IMO oregoians would get used to it in no time and most of them would be happier too.

they seem to be just afraid of change which is pretty weird to me in a city which seems to be advanced.

this is a bit off topic, but can someone explain to me why they charge more wheni use my credit card? this is also something i have NEVER seen anywhere. i think it is screwed up that i have to have cash with me all the time for cheaper gas, where as in other states i can get the lowest gas prices no matter how i pay.

i would like portland, but dealing with ignorance is hard for me so i am seriously thinking of relocating again.

Cherie said...

I'm sick and tired of having to wait for someone to get around to pumping my gas. It seems like every time I've gone to the pumps, I've had to wait at least 20 minutes for attendants to get to my car, even when the station isn't busy. They move at a snail's pace and stand at the cars while the gas is pumping instead of moving from car to car. I could get pump my car and the cars in front and behind me in the same amount of time!! Having the option to pump one's own gas wouldn't eliminate the option NOT to pump your own gas. It would just be a matter of choice (as far as what station you went to). I say PRO CHOICE for gasoline!!

Andrew said...

How about a compromise?

Leave the current system and those who think a gasoline pump will strangle you and kill your children can sit in their cars safe and sound. Those who are actually competent to get out of their cars or don't feel like waiting 10 minutes for some guy who doesn't care about you or his job can get out and do it themselves.

These 'authorized personell' have likely dented and at least scratched my paint by letting the cap dangle from its tether and bang against the body. I have had amounts of fuel poured down the side of my car more times than I care to count and on one occasion, I even had a guy pump my gas while smoking a cigarette!

So many "jobs"? You say this as if these people are the CEOs of major corporations, flying corporate jets, and that the loss of their employment would cause the economic foundation to crack and disintegrate. I have been desperate for work before but because I have my pride, I never applied to work for a gas station as an attendant. My friend did it and he HATED it. It really is a crap position.