Sunday, November 28, 2010

How about letting the consumers decide?

The WSJ reports that, once again, New Jersey is considering ending its ban on pump-your-own gas. Other than Oregon, Long Island, and one other New York community, Americans pump their own gas. But in New Jersey, doing it yourself is banned. Some New Jerseyites like sitting in their car and having an attendant serve them. They already have one of the cheapest gas prices in the nation. So the article talks to people from both sides of the do-it-yourself divide.

I know that the only time I'd ever driven through New Jersey a few years ago, I was extremely irritated to have to wait in long lines on the turnpike while too few attendants tried to take care of too many cars. Drivers sat in their cars for several minutes each time to wait for the attendant to come over, stick in the pump, and then again to come back and take the money. It was infuriating. Apparently Governor Corzine had wanted to allow pump-it-yourself gas on the New Jersey Turnpike but gave up the idea in 2006 after public complaints.

Nowhere in the article is there discussion of what seems like the obvious Solomonesque compromise. Lift the ban and let the gas station owners decide if they want to go to all self-serve, half and half, or all service. Let the customers decide which they prefer. See if the drivers on the Turnpike really do prefer to go wait in line for an attendant instead of getting out to pump it themselves. See if the price of gas drops and if people are willing to pay a few cents more per gallon to have some one come out in the rain to fill their tanks. Or see if drivers on the Why have the government decide what it is that people should have? This is the sort of choice that the market is much better at deciding than government officials.


Expat(ish) said...

I remember when there was full/self service. I even remember paying the extra $0.09/gal for full serve once.

I don't really miss it.

Rick Caird said...

Free market, individual choice?? Oh, the horror.

Ron Snyder said...

I had no idea so many states were forcing people (subjects?) to use self-serve.

lorraine_lanning said...

I remember full-service from when I was a kid but we moved on to self-service in CO before I could drive so I've never had it myself.

They would fill your tank, wash your windows and check your fluids.

tfhr said...

Ron Snyder,

Self-serve isn't a requirement enforced by the state, as opposed to the arrangement in New Jersey which prohibits self-serve.

There is nothing stopping a gas station owner from providing attendants.

Superdestroyer said...

I always fill up in Delaware just so I do not have to use a full service station in NY. The pay at the pump capability seems pointless in a full service station.

In addition, NJ does not wash the windows or check anything.

Pat Patterson said...

California switched to a full service/self service system years ago and soon dropped the full service requirement as no one used it and the stations hated having to staff fully when only a few requested the attention. Now I believe stations are required to send out someone with a handicapped tag and are encouraged to offer help to females (which I have never seen happen). Middle-aged Indian nationals and acne faced teens seem to be less than some women envisioned.

Ron K said...

"I always fill up in Delaware just so I do not have to use a full service station in NY. The pay at the pump capability seems pointless in a full service station."

I do the same thing when I travel from ID to WA via OR. fill up at the last gas station in Idaho and then the first gas station in Washington.