Thursday, January 6, 2011

Gas Bar evolution (devolution?)

Things change. I don't mind this, (usually). We are more efficient when we improve on things, (or should be), and the only way to become more efficient is to stop doing things the way we have done them and alter our production and/or delivery.
Gas bars aren't one of those things.
At the risk of sounding "old"...
My first job was at a Turbo station on Provencher. I was 15, and when I quit it was at $3.10/hour. (That's only provided so you can estimate what year it was).
At 16 , I was eventually found reliable enough to work the close shift. One person alone from 7-11 pm. There were 3 pump heads with 2 nozzles each. You weren't allowed to shut them down, except the premium/regular pump a half hour before close to help you get things wrapped up.
Didn't matter how many cars came in, the boss insisted that every vehicle got the windshield washed. He also wanted us to offer us to check the oil, (to which we all hoped the customer would say, "No thank you").
People paid primarily with cash, but plastic was very common. As I recall, it was a 60/40 sorta split. We carried a "float" with which we made change, usually $100 in our pocket. If you were short cash at the end of the shift, it came outta your cheque.
We learned how to make change pretty quick.
What's the point of the history lesson?
Cars came in, were attended to, and left with as much fuel as was requested and a clean windshield.
Things are very different today.
We pull in and wait. We wait because people have to go in to pay at the till, redeem lotto tickets, buy smokes, get a slushie... all the while we are out there waiting for them to clear the pump. No one can make change at the pump, (and I understand why insofar as a personal safety standpoint goes), and if you want your windshield washed, you can ask.
There must be a better way. There simply HAS to be a more efficient way to put fuel in a vehicle, I mean we have these "pay at the pump" features and all. If I want a receipt, we have to go inside because the printer is broken... and no, that's not a "one time thing", it seems to happen a lot. Pay at the pump, press "print receipt" and see a message on the screen, "please see attendant".
If I wanted to chat with the staff, I wouldn't have pressed "pay at pump" would I?
The latest mess happened at a Flying J. I've had the good fortune of visiting many of these south of the 49th. They are typically clean, well run, and they cater to the professional driver... meaning they seem to care.
I went to fill up, selected my fuel, pressed "pay inside", pressed the "start" button, and waited. And waited. And waited.
Finally a crackled voice came through on the speaker that sounded like the teacher in the Peanuts cartoons. I went inside and was told I had to pre pay. Now in the US this is VERY common, and I've done this many times. I gave them my credit card, and they asked ,"How much?" "As much as it will hold". "Well give it your best guess" "$70."
So they authorized a purchase for $70 and I went back out. While there, the register on my pump said .04 and then went up to .05. I hadn't started pumping yet, and where did a nickle go? "Oh we'll refund that to you" was the response after going inside (again), and heard something like "restart" through my hat with ear flaps. (In hind sight, how can I know I'm not being shorted .05 on every litre?)
I went out to restart, and waited... and waited...
I went back in and asked what was up. "Oh, you cancelled the transaction when you restarted, we'll need to authorize your card again".
What? You already know my card is good for it. What could have happened between now and then?
I approached the till where no less than three people were standing around and asked for the authorization slip. I told them that I couldn't buy fuel from them today, as I wasn't experienced enough to make it through the process they had in place.
Things don't always change for the better. It shouldn't take that long to get no where.

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