Pay at the pump
I offer all this as context, not as an excuse, for what happened. As I had to go to Safeway to pick up a few things anyway, I pulled into their gas bar, a spot where I've been able to get a quick fill with no hassle many times in the past. The pump I usually use was occupied so I swung over to the one furthest from the cashier cage. I popped open the gas cap, put in the nozzle and selected my gas grade. That's when I noticed the small sign with the bad news: PAY-AT-THE-PUMP ONLY (or whatever it says; I can't quite remember).
"F#&k," I exclaimed, surprised by the language coming out of my mouth so early on a Sunday morning.
I replaced the nozzle, whipped out my credit card and stuck it in the slot. I put it in one way, trying to emulate the diagram they have posted which seemed to suggest the magnetic strip to the left. Nothing. I put it in the other way. Nothing.
I took a deep breath and sighed, put my credit card back in my wallet, got in my car and drove to a pump closer to the cashier cage.
My Facebook post on this small moment of frustration opened up a can of worms, as people have strong feelings on both ends of the pay-at-the-pump spectrum. Several people asked me to better articulate why I dislike them so much. I'm still trying to figure that out myself, but I'll try to form an intelligent response below:
1) I thought I had pulled into a "normal" pump as nothing clearly suggested that it was a pay-at-the-pump only unit. I only saw the little sign after going through all the motions.
2) I like to pay inside. It gives me a chance to pick up a few odds and ends, plus it provides a small bit of human interaction that I appreciate. Paying inside is most important when we are on long road trips, as we always buy a little something extra.
3) I'm most comfortable giving my card to a human being who puts it in a familiar little unit. All I have to do is punch a few buttons and that's it. It's also warmer inside.
4) I've had too many experiences when I couldn't get the pay-at-the-pump to work. Apparently, I need to get some therapy, as those episodes have left emotional scars.
The Facebook discussion revealed an equal mix of people who feel as I do and those who strictly use the pay-at-the-pump function. The latter are in a hurry, and want to make this transaction without the distraction and lost time of having to walk inside. I learned that in England pay-at-the-pump is pervasive. I was reminded that in Saskatchewan full service is still common.
Apparently, the move to pay-at-the-pump has been more a business response to the folks who "gas and dash", in addition to being a customer service enhancement (for some). It would be interesting to see the bottom line results of this mitigation/service strategy.
When I was in Kamsack a few weeks ago, I was blessed by the full service treatment at the Co-op gas bar just a few block from the home of my youth. After I paid, the cashier said something odd.
"Here's your proof of purchase," said the cashier. "Please show it to your attendant before you leave."
I went out, looked for an attendant, didn't see one, and drove off. Apparently they have a "gas and dash" problem even in a full service environment.
The point of the story and this blog post, is that I need to come to terms with the pay-at-the-pump reality, because based on what I can glean, it's not going away any time soon.