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Why New Jersey motorists still can't pump their own gas


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Why New Jersey motorists still can't pump their own gas

by Jeremy Korzeniewski (RSS feed) on Nov 30th 2010 at 10:01AM

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Ding! There goes the charming little reminder that your car is getting low on fuel, as most new cars come straight from the factory with an audible reminder that it's time to fill up. No big deal, right? Just takes a quick second to remember which side the filler is on, then you get out, unscrew the cap and insert the nozzle. Fill 'er up... couldn't be easier.

Unless you live in New Jersey or Oregon, notes The Wall Street Journal, where it's still illegal to pump your own gas. According to Bikram Gill, a businessman who bought up 26 gas stations in New Jersey, "Any idiot can do it." We know for a fact that there are idiots in all 50 states, and in 48 of them, those idiots are free to handle the somewhat volatile fuel themselves. In 1951, though, the Supreme Court of New Jersey decided it was too dangerous to allow just anyone to pump gas, suggesting that the process of refueling is best left to the professionals.

Predictably, there have been attempts to change the law. In 1988, a judge issued a ruling that it was unconstitutional to disallow Americans the right to pump their own gas, but it was later overturned by a court of appeals. And again in 2006, governor John Corzine attempted to put self-service stations along the Turnpike, but the voting public said 'No Thanks.'

And so it remains illegal to pump your own gas in Jersey. Of course, the next time it's raining or snowing or sleeting and you need to fill up, something tells us you'll understand...

link:

http://www.autoblog.com/2010/11/30/why-new-jersey-motorists-still-cant-pump-their-own-gas/

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Self-Service Nation Ends at Garden State Gas Pumps

Changing Law May or May Not Lower Prices; 'New Jersey Is Heaven!'

By BARRY NEWMAN

RIDGEFIELD PARK, N.J.—People in New Jersey pick their own strawberries. They chop down their own Christmas trees. They check themselves in at airports and check themselves out at supermarkets. Lately, a few New Jerseyans have been wondering whether it isn't about time they were allowed to pump their own gas.

Pumping your own gas is illegal in New Jersey. It has been for 61 years. It's also illegal in Oregon, and in the New York town of Huntington, on Long Island. Just about everywhere else, self-serving Americans do it themselves. As paying at the pump gets easier, the gas station attendant is fast going the way of the elevator operator.

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Barry Newman for The Wall Street Journal

Will Corcoran pumps gas at Tim's Westview in Ridgefield Park. Pumping your own gas has been illegal in New Jersey for 61 years.

Don't tell Will Corcoran. When you pull into Tim's Westview, a Gulf station across from the train tracks in this north Jersey town, you'll sit in your car while he fills your tank.

Under a cold rain one weekday, he stood at the driver's window of a Chevy, bent over, yakking. He wore blue. His cap had Gulf Oil's orange disk on it. After his customer signed the credit slip (Tim's pumps don't process cards), Mr. Corcoran, 42 years old, shook hands and saluted like a gas jockey in an old commercial.

"People come in for the love of talking," he said as a van with New York plates rolled over the bell hose. At the wheel was Gilbert Grant, an anesthesiologist with a Bluetooth earpiece. "Now I have to wait for the attendant," Dr. Grant said. "What a job." After he drove off, Mr. Corcoran said, "Impatient. I sensed it."

His boss, Tim Arata, is a 47-year-old mechanic with lots of patience. "I'm for full-service," said Mr. Arata. He was in his repair shop, fixing a tire. Self-service, he figures, will let "big oil" into New Jersey to "put the Tim Aratas out of business."

Yet the rhythms of full-service try the patience of the state's newest station owners. Big oil is getting out of the pumping game, in fact. It's selling to people who forsake the repair shop for the convenience store and the high-volume pump island.

The gas-retailing lobby, once the force behind full-service, has split. Its association has given up praising the old filling station's homey virtues. Its least nostalgic members, meanwhile, are making the case for the gas jockey's demise.

Bikram Gill and his partners have bought up 26 New Jersey stations. They don't fix cars; they sell cappuccino. Their burden is finding workers to push the buttons on their self-service pumps. "Any idiot can do it," says Mr. Gill.

If that category includes New Jersey drivers, Mr. Gill figures self-service would let him cut prices by eight cents a gallon. Here's the rub: New Jersey drivers don't necessarily want cheaper gas. Gas here is cheap already.

Oregonians at least know they're paying dearly for their perk. But New Jersey has the country's third-lowest gas tax, after Alaska and Wyoming. Prices are way higher in the pump-your-own states next-door. Who needs self-service?

As Mr. Gill says, "The consumer is thinking, 'I have low prices and I don't have to get out of my car. New Jersey is heaven!'"

A BP station he owns, a 12-pumper, has a busy corner on Route 34 in Matawan, 45 miles south of Tim's. One afternoon, a line of cars awaited the attention of two attendants. Harish Sharma and Jagdeep Singh were working without banter for $9 an hour. Drivers phoned and texted. A few got out to use the ATM.

"I don't know from self-service," said a woman named Karen, pulling up to a pump in a Jeep. "In Jersey you weren't taught it. You go to some other state, you sit there like a dummy."

But one island over, a man named James climbed out of his GMC Suburban and started pumping his own.

Mr. Singh moved to intervene. James blocked him. "This is quicker," he said. When the pump shut off, James kept topping it up. "So I broke the law," he said as Mr. Singh reached in to pull out the receipt and present it.

In 1949, the year New Jersey banned them, America had 200 self-service gas stations. Thirteen other states had banned them, too. (Portsmouth, Va., banned attendants on roller skates.) The fear was that unprofessional pumpers would blow themselves up.

Calling the New Jersey law "oppressive," two dealers sued. They lost. The state's Supreme Court, upholding the verdict in 1951, declared gasoline inherently "dangerous in use." In 1988, a judge in a lower court ruled the law unconstitutional. An appeals panel cited the 1951 case and reversed him.

In 2006, then Gov. Jon Corzine took another shot at the law, proposing a self-service test on the New Jersey Turnpike. He wanted to watch prices drop, as cost-cutters like Mr. Gill say they will. The dealers' lobby didn't object. But the public did—so loudly that Mr. Corzine ditched his test before it began.

"I wanted it guaranteed that the price will go down," says Pam Fischer, a former state highway-safety director. "If the price doesn't drop, what do I get? The chance to pump my own gas? I know how to do it. It stinks."

In a state with a self-image sometimes in need of bolstering, full service may have attained the status of a cultural entitlement. Which is fine with Will Corcoran, out in the rain at Tim's.

"It's raw today," he was saying.

He grew up six blocks away and spent years as a drummer for a heavy-metal band called Revenant. He toured with Pungent Stench, Napalm Death and Life of Agony. Then he came home and landed at Tim's three years ago.

"I stopped searching for fame," said Mr. Corcoran. A car sped by, honking. He waved. He washes windows, checks tires, earns $500 a week. People give him Dunkin' Donuts gift cards for Christmas.

A truck pulled in. It was Steve Whritenour, a railroad mechanic with a wild beard. "Good guy," said Mr. Corcoran, lifting the nozzle. While his tank filled, Mr. Whritenour said, "I come in here every day or so. It's nice to have somebody to talk to."

link:

http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB10001424052748704243904575630511342598570-lMyQjAxMTAwMDIwNzEyNDcyWj.html

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I'm imagining most of those who come down on not being able to pump yer own gas in Jersey are the very same hypocritical bunch who couldn't fathom going without things like automatic headlights, 'sensor' fobs that allow keyless starts, electronic driving nannies, backup cameras, and dozens of other things that enable laziness provide convenience. I see no difference in pressing a button for 1 sec to roll down a car window and sitting in your warm, audio-filled interior while someone else pumps your fuel.

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Slow news day?

As Mr. Gill says, "The consumer is thinking, 'I have low prices and I don't have to get out of my car. New Jersey is heaven!'"

I love this quote. My thoughts exactly.

"(snip) You go to some other state, you sit there like a dummy."

Been there, done that.

I don't get gas outside NJ anymore unless its a long haul. I just buy on the way out and on the way back... Its cheaper. Its a 50 cent jump across the water in NYC sometimes.

Plus, I'd rather not get dirty, as some stations are.

But one island over, a man named James climbed out of his GMC Suburban and started pumping his own.

Been there, done that. Go too slow and I'll pump my own. Luckily, more Wawa's are pretty fast in my area... no need.

What this article doesn't touch on is the real reason we can't pump gas... it creates jobs. Granted, lousy jobs. There is no training program for this "dangerous" job, and at Wawas, there is a sign mentioning that attendants are too unskilled at anything else that they can't help you with anything else concerning your car... period.

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I pump my own gas and fill up on the WA side when I'm in Portland Oregon. Thrice the knuckle headed moron who was tasked with filling my car got gas all over the rear quarter panel. I'd rather get out of my car than have it get a gasoline shower.

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In my parts, one jurisdiction, Richmond, has a similar policy as New Jersey. I wouldn't mind at all if the attendants didn't appear to have had three minutes of job training, but on the rare occasion I gas up there, they either take their sweet time, or get gas on the vehicle. I suppose it's not a desirable job, but Jeezus, have some pride in your work.

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What this article doesn't touch on is the real reason we can't pump gas... it creates jobs. Granted, lousy jobs.

That's the most stupid reason to have a law like this. We could, for the same reason, make a law that you can't push your own grocery cart. That would make jobs. And be just as stupid. Most "car people" I know HATE having to have someone else pump their gas, because...

I'd rather slop gas on my quarter panel myself than have a gas station resource do it.

As mentioned, it's not like there's a bunch of training going on, it's just an excuse to provide jobs for idiots, and if I have a nice car, I'd rather not have an idiot spilling gas on my car, etc.

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That's the most stupid reason to have a law like this. We could, for the same reason, make a law that you can't push your own grocery cart. That would make jobs. And be just as stupid. Most "car people" I know HATE having to have someone else pump their gas, because...

Well, I agree its a stupid reason to CREATE a law... but that seems to not be the reason why the law was written in the first place, along with 13 other states. However, it seems to be the reason why the law was not repealed. Who wants to be the politician guilty for killing thousands of petroleum transfer technician jobs.

Also, with the screwy economics of NJ gas, if it applied to your example... Yeah, I'd like to have someone push my shopping cart if it means 10-20% off my groceries compared with the state next door...

As mentioned, it's not like there's a bunch of training going on, it's just an excuse to provide jobs for idiots, and if I have a nice car, I'd rather not have an idiot spilling gas on my car, etc.

Since vapor recovery systems became the norm, even the most cromag attendant has barely spilled a drop on my car.

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