Opinion: Nine Reasons NJ’s Self-serve Gas Bill Needs to Become Law
It was a long time in coming.
Honestly, the ban on self-serve gas in New Jersey never should have existed to begin with.
But after well over half a century of this archaic nonsense, the New Jersey legislature finally grew a set and introduced a bill in the State Assembly to allow self-serve gas -- but with a condition that ought to make everybody happy.
Let’s go back to the beginning for a moment. A New Jersey entrepreneur named Irv Reingold way back in the 1940s opened up a big gas station in Hackensack and in true American capitalist fashion undercut the competition by selling it for cheaper if people were willing to pump it themselves. Boy, were they. Far less labor cost and that savings could be passed on to the consumer. And it was. And it worked. People came from all around and enjoyed the savings.
The demand was absolutely there. It was his competitors who wanted to collude and fix prices that put it asunder. First, they pressured him. Then they literally tried acts of violence. When that thuggery didn’t work they turned to the professional thugs, the politicians. With lawmakers in their pockets, his competition soon had its way and the ridiculous ban on self-serve gas has existed ever since.
Do I need to point out that every other state allows self-serve gas? And people are getting along just fine.
The bill introduced Monday is genius in that no other state mandates gas stations with more than four pumps have full-serve available for those who still want it. It’s the best of both worlds and it’s your freedom of choice.
This will be a hot debate for the next couple of weeks in New Jersey. And a lot of incorrect things are going to be said. I’ve had long conversations with drivers and consumers on both sides of the issue. I’ve had in-depth talks with Sal Risalvato of the Gasoline, C-Store Automotive Association. I talked to lawmakers about this. And I was born and raised in the state but I’ve also earned perspective by living in others. All that being said let me give you my nine reasons this needs to happen.
9 reasons NJ’s self-serve gas bill needs to become law
1 — Freedom of choice
The way the bill is constructed gas stations with more than four pumps will be required by law to always offer full-service at some of those pumps from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.. So for all the Jersey girls who “don’t pump gas” and the people who think it’s such a luxury to waste time waiting for an attendant you can still have it exactly as it is.
2 — You’ll save time
It’s a simple and obvious matter of mathematics. If you have six pumps and one attendant and six cars it’s going to take a lot longer to get your tank filled and back on the road than if you have six pumps six cars and six drivers all helping themselves. You’ll be in and out.
3 — You’ll save money
This myth has to end that self-serve gas means higher prices. Every credible economist who has looked at this issue has concluded the opposite. Cutting down on labor costs will allow stations to compete for your business by lowering the prices at the self-serve islands. It is estimated by fuelyourwaynj.com the price of gas for self-serve will go down buy a good $.15 per gallon
In our neighboring state of Pennsylvania, which allows self-serve, their gas price is higher. But that has NOTHING to do with self-serve and EVERYTHING to do with the fact that their gas tax is $.58 per gallon compared to our $.41 per gallon. It’s never been about the way it’s dispensed.
4 — You’re not getting full serve now
It’s a joke when people talk about full-serve and it being a luxury. Full-serve was in the days of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers when they pulled into a gas station and they actually asked if you wanted your oil checked, asked if you wanted your tire pressure checked, cleaned the windshields, etc.. What you get now is too often someone who won’t even get off their cell phone call and doesn’t bother saying a single word to you during the transaction. Yeah, some luxury New Jersey.
5 — Better for your car
How many times have you had a gas attendant that tops off your tank even if you’ve told him not to. Topping off a tank is not good for your car because it can overwhelm your evaporative system and damage your vehicle and its performance. How many times have you watched in your side view mirror as the attendant carelessly pulls out the nozzle and drips gasoline down the side of your car?
6 — The jobs issue
Some will argue that it will cost jobs. Here’s the reality. For a while now, gas stations have not been able to hire enough people to either remain open all the hours they would like to be or to have all islands open like they would like to have.
Notice how often you see a full island or two closed off with traffic cones? That’s not because an underground tank is dry and they’re out of gas. It is because there’s been a labor problem and people aren’t wanting the jobs.
So let’s not make the mistake of arguing about jobs that people aren’t even taking. Besides, progress always will cost some jobs but it will then create others. Should we not have had refrigerators because it was going to put the iceman out of business?
7 — Disabled people
Some have worried that the disabled will have a hard time pumping their own gas. Again, not only does this bill force gas stations of size to still offer full-serve, it in fact mandates that disabled people who use the full-serve have to be given the self-serve price. They’re not only still taken care of it’s actually saving them money.
8 — It’s safe
It’s always been a myth that it was so incredibly dangerous to pump your own gas. And the technology now makes it safer than ever (but it was never a problem before). It was just a cheap excuse to get a corrupt legislature lobbied by price-colluding gas station owners to eliminate competition. It is safe to pump your own gas.
9 — Easier than you realize
I think the elephant in the room on all of this never gets talked about because people are embarrassed to admit it. I think many of those opposed to self-serve gas are just nervous they’re going to look like idiots attempting it because they never have.
It is so much easier than you think, and after you do it just two or three times it will be as natural as tying your shoes or picking your favorite Netflix show. And trust me you will be amazed at just how much faster you get back on the road.