Pay full price, get less service? Do you buy high and sell low, too?

caias posted on his LJ about people getting angry over not being able to pump their own gas in NJ. As he’s locked his LJ so only those on his friends list can comment (and I’m not on it), I’m blogging my response here:

I wonder if it’s just jealousy, that not only does New Jersey have some of the cheapest gas in the country (!) but we get full-service, too! (Apparently, outside of New Jersey, gas stations charge extra for full-service.)

People who insist on pumping their own gas are fools. The same kind of fools that smoke light cigarettes. Pay the same price as regular cigarettes, but get less nicotine and tar? Idiots. I get my money’s worth, thankyouverymuch.

At what point does the counterintuitiveness of the decision become evident? Such extreme examples as “pay the same price, get only half a cheeseburger?” I’m guessing people would see why that’s a ludicrous decision to make, right? So, why do people feel so strongly about “pay the same price for gas, but pump it yourself” when it’s already cheaper in New Jersey to let someone else pump it than it is to self-serve yourself in other states?

If gas in New Jersey were more expensive than other states, and someone could reasonably argue that the increase is directly due to the state mandated full-service, then I’d agree: it should be optional. But, I’ve seen no such argument …



  1. Three points:

    * Gas in NJ would be even cheaper if the stations had to spend less money on attendants; it’s not absolute cost that matters, but relative cost.

    * A major reason why it’s so “cheap” is that the gas subsidies are hidden in the sales and (high) property taxes.

    * Time is money and it’s much slower when you have to wait for the attendant to pump and to pay — two interactions that could be immediate instead of dependent upon human interaction and (worse) human availibility. When people are travelling, an extra 5-10 minutes to wait in line to gas up is irritating.

    I think the crux of it is that you’re mixing up absolute value versus relative value. For example, if a programmer with ten years’ experience is making $50k, would you say “stop whining; that’s more than the average household” or “you’re getting fucked over; you can do much better”?

  2. It may be slower to wait for an attendant, but when it’s raining or snowing it’s convenient not to have to get out of my car. I can’t imagine what kind of a rush I’d have to be in that waiting an extra few minutes would make a material difference in my life.

    Regarding absolute vs. relative value: I’d say “stop whining” because the reality is they can’t do better–if they could, they would. Same goes for the gas situation in New Jersey: full-service gas prices are already cheaper than self-service gas prices elsewhere. Stop whining.

  3. There’s this small chain of stations in my area that are full service. They don’t charge any more than other stations, and are often cheaper. As gas stations typically need at least one attendant anyways, put them to work pumping gas! I’ve never seen any gas station cashier that’s not bored out of his mind. It’s always seemed like such a waste (human) resources.

  4. No whining going on here Dossy. Its the TIME. My time is worth more then a measy 10 cents or so that I save per gallon. Each time I get stuck in New Jersey and need to fill up its the same crap especially God forbid if i need to fill up on the New Jersey Turnpike.
    Easily consume between 15 to 30 minutes waiting especially at night when there is one harried soul trying to pump and charge a long line of cars.

  5. Julio: 15-30 minutes? It might feel like it, but I’ve never had to wait that long. Do me a favor, next time actually clock how long it takes. If it’s more than 5 actual minutes, I’d be surprised. But, I definitely know the feeling of sitting around waiting–two minutes can feel like 10.

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