Earlier this week I traveled to Des Moines for a photo shoot, a happy 230 mile trip. As is normal, I chose to stop at Missouri Valley, Iowa – a natural “halfway” point – for gas. I pulled in the Phillips 66 station just off the Interstate and pulled up to the nearest pump. It was about ten degrees that day with a nasty wind. I hopped out of the car, cursed the weather, opened my gas tank, grabbed the nozzle, and saw, “Prepay Only” on the screen.
If you own a gas station, please keep in mind that “Prepay Only” means two things.
- You’re standing in a high crime area.
- We don’t trust you.
Neither of those things makes me very eager to spend my money at your store.
Regardless I trotted inside, shivering, to prepay. The 12-year-old kid behind the counter was busy ringing up the customers in front of me, so I looked at the time and started getting antsy – waiting is NOT my forté. When it was my turn at the register, the kid behind the counter completely ignored me for about thirty seconds, long enough for me to stare holes in his head as he gawked at his phone (or whatever he was doing). Just as I was turning to leave, he said, “Oh, did you need something?” (No, I just drove to a gas station a hundred miles from home so I could come in here and gaze at your magnificence.)
“Yeah, I’d like to fill up, but the pump says ‘Prepay Only.’ How does that work?”
“Just tell me how many gallons you want,” replied the kid.
“I have no idea – I’d like to fill the tank.”
“Just tell me how much gas you want,” he repeated.
“How do I know how much it will take to fill it up?” I asked, getting edgy.
“Haven’t you ever filled up your car before?” Okay, now you’re getting snotty.
“No. It’s a rental,” I lied. “I’ll just go to the station across the street,” I truthed. “Thanks.”
I’ll probably never stop at a Phillips station again. I hate those kinds of confrontations. “Prepay Only” may be a common thing in cities, but hereabouts it’s an insult. I choose to pay at the pump because I don’t like interacting with strangers. I don’t know if I’m just shy, or if I’m introverted, but I’ll go to ridiculous lengths to avoid talking to folks on the phone or going into stores where I have to talk to people. So the whole thing lefty me angry and upset.
Gas station make most of their profit from the overpriced garbage they sell in the store. You can’t buy that junk if you don’t go in to pay for your gas. Pre-pay is silly when one can swipe a credit card (when you swipe, it’s immediately verified and a chunk of your available credit is blocked off until the station confirms the amount to charge at a later time). I never go into a gas station if I can help it; last time I gassed up I had to go inside to get the receipt. I wasn’t happy.
That is true. I used to work at one or the other there in Mo Valley. We were totally about the snacks and lottery scratchers and upsell upsell upsell. There were even incentives to add a bag of chips to every sale or to sell more than one lottery ticket at a time. I hated every minute of it. People just want to gas and go.