Pay at the pump

Admittedly, my stress level starts to climb as my gas gauge nears empty, especially in the wintertime.  My father has trained me well to always try and keep it topped up.  But, it's been a busy week, flying from work to home to the theatre.  My first spare moment to get a fill was yesterday morning.  I had perhaps 45 kilometres of driving on the few litres that remained.

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.

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