With current gas prices in the U.S. averaging just under $4.00/gallon (of course where I live it is more like $4.20) the customer experience of going to the gas station is an already painful one. Many of the nation’s refiners have sold off their ownership in gas stations to independent operators. While this may make sense for oil giants like Exxon-Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and BP, what is happening at gas stations is that the experience is not getting better for customers.
Of course the #1 thing customers would like to see at gasoline stations is lower prices. Since that’s not going to happen, and even if it did it would not be the station owners making that decision, brand loyalty to gasoline or a gasoline station is as fleeting as it’s ever been before. Since a good percentage of transactions at the gas station can be done at the pump itself the gas station is about as impersonal a retail place as can be found. I’m not longing for a return of the days of the ‘man with the Texaco Star’, who would fill your tank, wash your windshield and send you off with a smile. But there are an increasing amount of things that are so annoying at gas stations in the U.S. today.
1 – The return of a cash price vs. a credit card price. This was in vogue ten years ago and has returned with a vengeance. Given that a $4.00/gallon price of gasoline is about the highest it’s ever been credit card processing fees (3-4% most of the time) represent $0.12-$0.16/gallon. So far I have seen a $0.09 or $0.10 discount for cash payments. The stations are not even discounting the cash price equivalent to the actual savings they are realizing by not processing credit card transactions.
2 – Ads playing on the screen while you pump gas. I admit it’s a clever idea and a captive audience cannot help but be forced or drawn to watch, but after I’ve seen the same ad on the same visit for the 5th time during the same visit I am ready to scream out loud. And there’s no shutoff button like there now is in taxis in New York that play ads while you ride (another clever idea). Please let us turn off the stupid thing!
3 – No I don’t want a car wash. At the gas station I am trying to get in and out as quickly as possible (I am trying everything I can to NOT go in the store). Often I am on autopilot and in hitting yes for a receipt out of habit I have inadvertently agreed to a car wash. I am quite capable of making my own decision on when I want a car wash. And the message flashes independent of the weather. Who washes their car during a rainstorm?
4 – Not being able to print out a receipt from the pump. If you are going to have a one-stop service and allow people to pay at the pump the receipt paper roll should be changed promptly. It happens all too frequently that there is no paper in the pump receipt and then you must go inside to get one. And what a pleasant experience that is.
5 – The pump handle lock is broken. Many people like not having to hold the pump while filling their tank. Why some gas stations either don’t have this feature at all or when it is broken don’t fix it makes me nuts.
There are actually more than five but I will save those for another day when I feel the need for a rant. But I am interested in hearing if you’ve got any others aside from those above that bother you.