Drive-Offs Increase With Gas Prices

Discussion
Jun 28, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

One of the unfortunate effects of higher prices at the pump is that a growing number of people who stop at gas stations to fill up their tanks are driving off without paying.

Trina Howie, a manager at a Fuel Mart station in Omaha, Neb. said, “People know which pumps that are open out here in the middle, so they know when we’re busy running the register, taking care of customers, if we’re not paying attention — they take off.”

According to Ms. Howie, her station has seen 60 or more drive-offs in the last month alone.

The station has tried using a surveillance vehicle, having employees write down suspicious looking drivers’ license plates and requiring customers to prepay for gas between three in the afternoon and eight in the morning.

Another station operator in the Omaha market, Quik Trip, has begun using a system that requires customers to swipe an identification card before they can pump gas.

“They swipe in the credit card reader, just like they would a credit card. Pump comes on they come in and pay us when their done,” said Quik Trip manager John Shonka.

Moderator’s Comment: What can gas stations do to protect against drive-offs?

A few words of wisdom from the state of New Jersey where self-serve at the pump is not an option – gas station attendants.
George Anderson – Moderator

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

7 Comments on "Drive-Offs Increase With Gas Prices"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

So much for the Freakonomics theory of honesty. I’ve only read extracts so far but the story most frequently cited is the bagel seller who operated an honor system. Maybe people don’t mind paying for something so low priced but, as George suggests, lose their sense of ethics when the price goes up. I do like his suggestion about the attendants, though. Gosh, real people doing real jobs. What a thought. Obviously the pre-pay system could also work but is awkward if you don’t know how much it’s going to cost to fill your tank. One other possibility, and I admit it has its own initial cost implication, is to install an exit barrier which will only go up when you insert a receipt or code to prove that you’ve paid.

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 7 months ago

The problem is easy to solve. Pay before you pump. Any gas station that does not have that policy set up is just asking to be taken advantage of. They might as well set out a coffee can and ask people to deposit what they owe on the honor system. Well, this isn’t Mayberry. With some credit cards paying between 3% and 5% back on gas purchases, I would be very leery of anyone paying with cash anyway. Gas stations used to offer cash discounts. Now its just the opposite.

Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
15 years 7 months ago

Also living in New Jersey, I appreciate George’s comment.

Based on the statistics shared for Grocery employment yesterday, maybe North and South Carolina should think about getting rid of self serve in order to employ some of the would-be grocery workers. At $38.00 a pop and 60 occurrences a month, attendants make sense even if it is only certain times of the day.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 7 months ago

To protect themselves from “drive-aways,” stations must put in place only credit card (or swipe card) pumps or re-introduce attendants, which would be a novelty to young Americans and an extra expense. The escalating price of imported oil is not the only new cost that gas station operators must contend with these days.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 7 months ago
Full disclosure, I use gasoline. Whew!, I feel better. Seriously, a few years ago I pulled into a gas station in Sacramento, my home, and began filling up. I noticed another customer nearby who was smoking right in front of a “no smoking” sign and, since he was bigger and more tattooed than I, I marched into the sales office and alerted them to the offender. They shut him down immediately. Thoroughly adrenalized by performing my civic duty, I jumped in my car and drove off with the gas nozzle still stuck in my car’s filler tube. Chaos ensued, but the gas station didn’t blow up as it would have in a Bruce Willis movie. Confronted with my only drive-off opportunity, I blew it. While Omaha is not the center of the universe, it’s close to the center of the continental U.S. (I’m a Kansan, and we have that dubious distinction — neener, neener). Take a look around, all you big-city denizens in Topeka and Wichita, and notice that gas stations already have your number.… Read more »
Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
15 years 7 months ago

Way down here in Georgia, you lose your drivers license if you “drive off” and are caught. Low cost security cameras have made collecting tag numbers easy. I don’t have the statistics but I bet Georgia’s “drive off” incidence is low compared to states that don’t consider this type of theft a priority problem. Common sense solutions like “pay before you pump” and/or card reader pumps should help with, if not solve, this problem. All the tools are there; now it’s up to the retailer to make a decision regarding which ones he will use to solve this problem.

Perry Cheatham
Guest
Perry Cheatham
15 years 7 months ago
I work for a company that operates convenience stores. It is much more complicated. Yes, there are drive offs in the business. Actually it appears that QT (our competitor) may have found a viable solution by making the customer register before they are able to pay cash inside. Although gas is at an all time high, there is no possible way to have an attendant out there. It would cost too much. The best answer is improved systems. We are implementing digital camera systems that are not cheap, but they can capture the license number. In Missouri where we operate, it is against the law to drive off without paying. If you do that, you are supposed to lose your license. There is another reality that exists with drive offs that was not discussed. Not all drive offs are actually a ‘drive off’. Many times it is dishonest employees who are calling it a drive off when actually the customer paid cash for the gas and the employee later pockets the money. Many times the… Read more »
wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

Are drive offs a problem that gas stations can control?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...