Pry my pump from my cold, dead hands

Tom Bell’s newly posted song lyrics remind me of another pathetic fact about Oregon: you’re not allowed to pump your own gas there. The state requires gas stations to be full-service, like it or not. Imagine this Texas boy reduced to having someone pump his gas for him! I’ll cringe every time I fill up.

The purpose of the ban on self-service is to protect the outdated jobs of gas station attendants, but the legislature goes to hilarious lengths to justify it on public safety grounds. Among the reasons for enactment listed in the law:

(2) 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;

(3) Higher liability insurance rates charged to retail self-service stations reflect the dangers posed to customers when they leave their vehicles to dispense Class 1 flammable liquids, such as the increased risk of crime and the increased risk of personal injury resulting from slipping on slick surfaces;

(4) The dangers of crime and slick surfaces described in subsection (3) of this section are enhanced because Oregon’s weather is uniquely adverse, causing wet pavement and reduced visibility;

(7) Exposure to toxic fumes represents a health hazard to customers dispensing Class 1 flammable liquids;

(9) The exposure to Class 1 flammable liquids through dispensing should, in general, be limited to as few individuals as possible, such as gasoline station owners and their employees or other trained and certified dispensers;

(10) The typical practice of charging significantly higher prices for full-service fuel dispensing in states where self-service is permitted at retail… Discriminates against customers with lower incomes, who are under greater economic pressure to subject themselves to the inconvenience and hazards of self-service;

(17) Small children left unattended when customers leave to make payment at retail self-service stations creates a dangerous situation.

Yikes, it’s a wonder I’ve survived to 26 engaging in such dangerous activity all these years.

Number 7 is especially worth noting. If operating a gas pump is truly that dangerous, why is the state requiring station attendants to assume the risk on behalf of drivers? If the Oregon legislature is going to ban smoking in bars and restaurants to protect workers, it should ban full-service gas stations too. Or better yet, it should free both kinds of businesses to set their own policies and let employees and customers decide if it’s worth dealing with them. Yeah, that’ll be the day…


7 thoughts on “Pry my pump from my cold, dead hands”

  1. I had no idea how annoying this gas thing would be until I got here. Not only is gas way more expensive because of building-in those extra wages for those glorified carhops, it just makes everything take so much longer, since there’s typically only 1 person for all the pumps at a station. So you get to sit and wait to be waited on, without even getting the choice. It also creates problems with regard to 24 hour filling stations; namely, there are (almost) none, because you’ve got to have a person there.

    God, I sound cranky. But this is by far the most annoying thing about Oregon.

  2. That reminds me of a Cato blog post from last year.

    Personally I go out of my way to avoid full-service gas stations. I find it annoying to park and wait for the attendant when I can get out myself and do it quicker. Indeed, I’ve been known to get out and pump my own at full-service stations too.

    The only annoying thing my province does is ban the locking device on the pump handles. This means you have to stand and hold it the entire time which prevents you from washing your windows and being more efficient. It’s also annoying in -40° weather that we get up here.

    For this reason, I enjoy my yearly trip through the Mid-West/Western states and the wonderful handsfree gas pumps. Only three more days!

  3. Thanks for the link. A friend of mine visiting from Jersey had a similar experience. After several minutes waiting for a non-existent gas attendant, she made the attempt herself. It somehow ended up in tears.

  4. Are you sure you want to move to this place? That would annoy the ever-loving crap out of me. (I too go out of my way to avoid full-service stations. In fact, I’ve never not pumped my own gas in my life.)

    If your road trip once you leave VA happens to swing through Florida (as if), give me a call.

  5. Live on the north side of town… that way, you can just cross the Columbia whenever you need to fill up.

  6. The upside is that a) prices for gas aren’t any higher here in Oregon than they are across the river in WA or down in CA. and b) its not really full service. Some guy just pumps your gas.

    While I think its a stupid law, it is kind of quaint and I’ve gotten quite used to it.

  7. It sounds like something to complain about now, but just wait till the winter when it’s freezing and been raining for a month and you have to get gas and ::poof:: someone pumps it for you and you never have to leave the car. I’ve gotten so used to it, when I leave the state I always end up sitting in the car for a minute waiting for someone to come up to me before I remember other states don’t offer the luxury of having someone else pump your gas for you. It’s really not as big of a deal as some of your friends above make it out to be. In fact, I kind of love it. And I’d say that typically, it only adds on no more than 5 minutes to how long it would take me to pump myself. I hardly ever have to wait for an attendant. And sometimes they clean my windows too. In short, I’m a fan.

Comments are closed.