Diatribe: I Do Not Wish to “See Attendant For Receipt”.
My first car was a 1971 Ford LTD. It was white and it was big. I did my best to take care of it but there were always times that I needed help. Fortunately, my father was able to teach me the basics like changing oil. Back then, when the price of gasoline was about sixty-five cents per gallon, I would drive a little bit out of my way to my favorite filling station. I would sit proudly behind the wheel while the attendant on duty would fill my tank, wash my windshield and check my oil. I’d give him a one dollar tip and I’d feel like Thurston Howell, III from Gilligan’s Island.
Soon, self-serve pumps began to appear at filling stations around town. These new pumps offered gasoline at a slightly lower price than the full service pumps. When I was feeling particularly important (or it was raining or cold or a good song was on the radio), I would pay the few cents more for full service. They would keep a few cans of oil on hand if someone needed to buy one and, occasionally, there was a mechanic around (often the lone attendant) for quick fixes.
Then, like most every filling station, they stopped washing windshields and checking oil. Full service pumps went the way of the dodo bird and filling stations became convenience stores that just happened to have gas pumps in front of them. So we had to pump our own gas and then go inside the convenience store, where they hoped we would spend more money, to pay for our purchase. Squeegees, window cleaner and paper towels were usually made available at each pump so that customers could clean their windows while they filled their tanks.
Later, the squeegees were gone and the price of gasoline continued to rise.
In 1986, Mobil introduced the first “pay at the pump”. Customers no longer had to leave their vehicles unattended to go inside to wait in line at the cash register behind people buying cigarettes and soft drinks. They could now swipe a credit card, at the pump, buy they fuel and be on their way. Station owners loved the new technology because it allowed their employees time for other assignments.
Gas stations became markets and restaurants. Now, using touch-screen monitors, customers can place food orders while they pump their gas and their purchase will be available when they enter the store to pay. Today’s gas stations, unlike filling stations of the past, have very little to do with automobiles and service. They’ve become mini-malls that sell several different kinds of coffees, foods, beverages, candy, housewares, clothings, novelties … anything that they can fit on their shelves. And why not? They’re paying someone to mind the operation, and they’re not making much money selling so they might as well offer as many products as possible.
So, now we don’t have to go inside at all to pay for gasoline. Unless we want a receipt! Because, despite the marvelous advances in gas station technology that have occurred during the course of my driving life, they still haven’t found a way to keep the pumps from running out of paper!