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Why some complain about ‘pay before you pump’

Published September 24, 2012


Pay before you pump. It’s a simple concept that might soon become the norm at gas stations in Ontario after the tragic death of a clerk pursuing a gas thief – who is now wanted for second-degree murder.

It’s not a new idea. In fact, many Ontario stations already have a “pay-first” policy for overnight shifts. Some owners, tired of being crime victims time and time again, have instituted “pay-first” all the time.

Yet, despite the many good reasons for making “pay-first” the law, the crybabies amongst us think it will be “too inconvenient” to put the safety of station attendants first.

Some of the whiny complaints I’ve heard include:

It’ll make the queue to pay longer. Whether before or afterward, you still have to make that one trip inside to pay cash – unless you had no intention of paying – so what difference does it make?

I want to fill up and don’t know how much to prepay. Guess what? Your car doesn’t care if you fill the tank completely or not. If it’s of such paramount importance to you, then overpay and go back afterward for your change. Personally, I’d rather just guess low at an amount that I’m sure it can take, to skip that second trip.

What if I prepaid $60 cash, for example, and they say I only gave $40 when I return for change? You get a receipt showing the pre-pay amount and pump number when you pay first. You can also get a second receipt for the full transaction once completed.

What if I accidentally exceed the prepaid amount? When you prepay, the pump shuts off automatically when the authorized amount is reached.

What if they mistakenly think I drove off without paying? Not likely if “pay-first” becomes law. Anyhow, you have your prepay receipt. The only thing you can drive off without is your change, if any is owed.

The retailer will pass on equipment update costs to the consumer. Current equipment at virtually all major retailers can already accommodate prepayments.

Gas thefts are ultimately paid for by honest consumers through higher prices. Retailer losses should drop with “pay-first.” Additionally, the passing of counterfeit bills is deterred, since the clerk will have plenty of time to examine the bill – and can summon police while the perpetrator is still there or even shut off the pump mid-fill to mitigate losses – if they suspect fraud.

Want to skip the line altogether? Use a credit card; some offer additional gas savings, points or a rebate program as a bonus. Virtually all major retailers have pay-at-the-pump for credit cards, some may take debit too, so prepaying really only affects those who pay cash. Points cards can also be used at the pump.

Granted, a few retailers may have outdated equipment without pay-at-the-pump and auto shut-off etc., so some delays may result.

If “pay-first” does become law, all these silly complaints will likely fade into history – along with deadly drive-away gas thefts.

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