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PARK: Jersey girls don't pump their gas

Column: The Queue

Gas stations should have gas attendants present to preserve jobs and to ease stress for drivers. – Photo by Dawn McDonald / Unsplash

It is embarrassing to admit, but I have never pumped my own gas. That is not to say that I do not know how, but as someone who got their license four months into the beginning of the pandemic and has never driven out of state, I never had to know.

New Jersey is 1 of 2 states in the U.S. where drivers are not allowed to pump their own gas. Oregon is the other. Known for relatively cheap gas prices and full service, the rest of the country is jealous of New Jersey — something we cannot always say.

The Motorist Fueling Choice and Convenience Act has now been instituted after 73 years of the ban and will allow all gas stations to offer self-service options. The stations with more than four pumps will be required to have full-service pumps between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Those patrons who chose self-service will be able to pump their gas for a cheaper price.

What does this mean for drivers in New Jersey? We have to let our ego take a hit and learn to pump gas. The sales of “Jersey Girls Don’t Pump Gas” bumper stickers and plates might see a downward trend.

The bill was mostly passed because it can help gas stations lower prices and acclimate to the current labor shortage.

In a Rutgers Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling poll, it was concluded that New Jersey drivers want their gas pumped for them. From weather to safety matters, gas pumping services are somewhat of a tradition here. The poll concluded that “those in the lowest income bracket are the most likely to prefer full service (83 percent),” and “87 percent of women … prefer to have their gas pumped for them.”

While self-service may be a way to lower the current headache that is high gas prices, it is important to note that New Jersey is not the most expensive state. California has the highest gas price of $5.86 per gallon, while New Jersey averages $4.21 per gallon. Around us in New Brunswick, the gas stations seem to tiptoe around the line of crossing into $4 per gallon for regular gas.

So why am I complaining about this new bill? It is convenient for us and can help many people, but I still see some issues.

The role of gas attendant is a job. The gig economy has its benefits in schedules and temporality, but minimum wage jobs are popular for young people or those with no college degree.

It is considered to be a low-skill job, but it is a service that people appreciate. Not to mention gas attendants provide a sense of security and safety, especially at night.

The lift on the “pump your own gas” ban is essentially a short-term fix. It would save a couple of bucks to choose self-serve over full service. Additionally, the gas stations would not need to search to hire workers if they are short-staffed and can close by 8 p.m. But the main issue here is that we would be eliminating jobs.

We would be losing security at gas stations after the sun goes down. And in local areas, big gas stations may not be as popular, so we would be forced to pump our own gas at places with less than four pumps. 

This new bill proposes that it will be saving money, but it really does more harm than good. It might alleviate the labor shortage temporarily or alleviate the issue of saving a few cents per gallon for now. But that is exactly it: for now. The service, or lack thereof, will be fixed in the price, and after 73 years, we have been sticking with full-service gas despite price fluctuations and the gas tax implemented by former Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) in 2016.

High gas prices are here due to many reasons that we as New Jerseyans cannot control: the post-pandemic effect, sanctions in Russia, shortage in oil production. This system has kept New Jersey at the butt of many gas-pumping jokes, but it is a system that has worked for years and provided a service for many.

Take the motto “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Like many other New Jerseyans, pumping gas is something I would rather have done for me.

Annabel Park is a Rutgers Business School first-year majoring in marketing and minoring in journalism. Her column, "The Queue," typically runs on alternate Fridays.


*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

YOUR VOICE | The Daily Targum welcomes submissions from all readers. Due to space limitations in our print newspaper, letters to the editor must not exceed 900 words. Guest columns and commentaries must be between 700 and 900 words. All authors must include their name, phone number, class year and college affiliation or department to be considered for publication. Please submit via email to oped@dailytargum.com by 4 p.m. to be considered for the following day’s publication. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.


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