By Scott St. Clair | The Save Jersey Blog
About the only reasons I’ve heard for retaining mandatory full-service gas stations in New Jersey is that women don’t want to risk having their hair or fingernails mussed up while filling up the tank.
A typical Jersey attitude, which makes it typically dopey.
The current clamor over basic common-sense legislative proposals to allow New Jersey gasoline purchasers to do-it-yourself (exceptions for the handicapped and elderly) appears to be all for naught after state Senate President Steve Sweeney, who never met a taxpayer or consumer-friendly reform proposal he didn’t want to kill, declared any such measure DOA. Instead of helping us get cheaper gas – some say as much as 5 to 7 cents per gallon cheaper – Sweeney once again gives us gas, especially after new credit and debit card security requirements will require non-cash customers to get out of the car anyway to enter their PIN numbers at the pump. So, it’s like you’re doing 90% of the self-serve work without any of the savings.
In most states, self-serve gas is cheaper, but hard-core Jerseyans will point to Pennsylvania, where it’s legal but more expensive, to “prove” that there’s no added cost for full-service treatment. The problem is, however, that because New Jersey is duplicitous about its road taxes and its shady Transportation Trust Fund spending it’s next to impossible to find out what the true costs of roads are except to say that we pay the most for the worst roads in the country.
Again, typically Jersey dopey.
So, New Jerseyans aren’t saving a dime — they’re just getting screwed 66 ways to Sunday without realizing it. Besides, if we’re to be stuck with so-called “full service” then why can’t it be full instead of just full of it?
When was the last time a smiling chap in a clean pressed shirt wearing a bow tie tipped his hat to you as he filled up the tank, checked your oil, water and tire pressure and then cleaned your windshield?
I’m convinced pump jockeys have pocketed a few extra bucks from any number of filling station transactions I’ve had since living in Jersey, hence my preference for doing it myself. And ladies, forget your nails and wear a hat since it’s time to get with the program. The government is telling you that you’re too inept to do what some minimum-wage guy with wretched communication skills can do. Call it “Fill ‘Er Up Feminism,” because they’re denying you your right of choice.
Plus, the proposed legislation doesn’t mandate do-it-yourself, it only allows a retailer to offer it as a lower-cost option, so the sky-is-falling hysteria over broken nails, standing at a pump in the cold or whatever is more than a tad overblown.
In Washington state – a pump your own state – where I used to live, those who live along the Oregon – no self-service – line would buy their gas, say, in Vancouver, WA a lot cheaper, and then motor across the Columbia River into Portland to make retail purchases because Oregon doesn’t have a sales tax. A pretty sweet deal for consumers.
Some claim it’s too difficult to learn how to pump your own gas. Are you kidding me? If you can operate a microwave oven, which is more complicated than a gas pump, you can fill up the tank. Until I moved to New Jersey, I had always pumped my own since I was 16 years-old.
Others – really, the same people – claim it will cost jobs. But since when has featherbedding been a socially valuable public policy? If it is, then why not have the Legislature mandate carry-out service at the grocery store or outlaw cash machines and require all bank transactions be on a face-to-face basis?
I’m told that the impetus for the 1949 legislation outlawing do-it-yourself pumping was safety. But we know that’s a crock. The real reason, as The Star-Ledger’s Paul Mulshine noted, was corruption. An enterprising gasoline retailer was undercutting the price fixing then in place among the competition by charging less if you pumped your own, so they got their pals in the Legislature to outlaw the practice in order to stifle innovation and maintain their cartel. “Safety” was but the hook upon which they hung their crony-capitalism hat.
As Mulshine also noted, and I have on a couple of occasions – here and here – that restraint of trade is remarkably similar to how liquor licenses are managed and sold in the state: artificially keep the supply low so that demand will keep the price exorbitantly high.
Yet again, typically Jersey dopey.
Tell me again how the public benefits through all of this? Especially when we live under a constant threat of the Legislature hiking the gas tax to where we’ll all pay an additional $300 or more per year?
When it comes to what goes into my car and how it goes in, just the same as my body, I, and I alone, should be making the decision on how to fill ‘er up, not some South Jersey ironworker in the Senate who’s full of it.
Choice, convenience, efficiency and, damn it, it’s my right!