Let Them Pump Gas

Oregon and New Jersey are the only states to ban self-service gas stations. Mercifully, this prohibition is starting to fall apart.


For years, Oregon has mandated that all filling stations be full-service—meaning that a station employee must work the nozzle. People who are in a hurry and out-of-state visitors accustomed to self-service are reminded firmly but politely (this is Oregon, after all) to keep their hands away from the pump.

Oregon and New Jersey are the only states to have this restriction. Mercifully, it's starting to fall apart.

In 2015, Oregon legislators passed a bill allowing gas stations in counties of fewer than 40,000 people to offer a self-service pump between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. A 2017 law expanded this carve-out to allow all-day self-service in those counties.

Now legislators are proposing to let people gas up by themselves statewide. In March, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill that would allow all Oregon gas stations to designate up to 25 percent of their pumps as self-service. Businesses with fewer than four pumps would be able to make one self-service.

The legislation "would give businesses a choice," says Rep. Julie Fahey (D–West Eugene), one of the bill's sponsors. The change would "help when pumps are very busy and attendants may not be able to keep up with demand."

Sound like a sensible compromise? The mere suggestion has in fact proven controversial with the many Oregonians who like being served at the pump and are all too happy to deny others the right to fill up their own tanks. Mandatory full service creates jobs, they argue, while helping to keep Oregon Oregon.

"All kinds of entry-level jobs are going away," said Rep. Rob Nosse (D–Portland) while testifying against Fahey's bill. He added that the additional gas station jobs created by the current law help to "build a work ethic and build the basic skills to succeed in the working world." Should self-service be allowed to go statewide, "something quirky and charming about our state would be lost."

These arguments are insulting, both to Oregon's entry-level workers and to Oregon itself. The implication is that those currently manning the state's gas pumps are so unskilled that they could secure no other employment opportunities if the government ceased mandating their jobs into existence. Chances are they'll be able to find work that better employs their talents, maybe even at the same gas station.

Meanwhile, the idea that Oregon's quirky charm would be greatly diminished by allowing people to pump their own gas ignores the full spectrum of eccentricities that make the Beaver State unique.

NEXT: Brickbat: Reading Is Fundamental

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Britschgi (whose very name makes me feel he’s from Britain) is ignoring the danger aspect of ordinary, untrained citizens playing around with virtual gasoline, which I will add in real life is not only flammable but also inflammable. What normal Joe off the street is equipped to deal with that kind of paradox?

    Pennsylvania, where I supposedly live, allows any Johnny Pedaljocky to pump his own gas. I can’t tell you how many times in the first five years of my driving life did I find myself at the pump engulfed in flame and with a puzzled look on my face, all in front of a date sitting right there in the passenger seat. It’s smelly and embarrassing and just not worth it, imo.

    1. As a former Pennsylvania Full Service Petroleum Distillate Distribution Technician (regular, unleaded AND diesel), I can tell you the both minutes of my job training were among the most rigorous and important of my life. I drive an electric now to avoid the certain death of pumping alongside the unwashed at Wawa, who probably don’t even THINK of static discharge risk in corduroy season.

    2. That’s exactly the fear I heard expressed on an Oregon talk show while driving through once. Some soft of referendum was on trying to legalize self service. One old lady called in talking about the horrors of self immolation by untrained and unsupervised amateur gas pumpers.

      The host responded, “But the Californians successfully pump their own gas, and we all know how dumb they are!”

    3. That’s Mister Johnny Pedaljockey to your, fella.

      1. I’m beginning to suspect that’s not even a real name.

    4. “Britschgi (whose very name makes me feel he’s from Britain)”

      Way to defy that Americans-know-nothing-of-the-world-outside-the-USA stereotype, dude. (For the record: my half-assed guess is that he’s Swiss.)

  2. But what about consumer choice? I have travelled through New York and Connecticut and Pennsylvania, and I have yet to find a full-service gas station. I live in New Jersey and dread travelling in and through those states.

    Why would I want to touch the handle and the nozzle of a gas pump that has been handled by thousands of people with poor personal hygiene?

    1. Instead of the state forcing businesses to employ people in unnecessary positions, you could pay someone directly to pump your gas.

      Or, ya know, maybe buy a 99 cent bottle of hand sanitizer.

    2. “Why would I want to touch the handle and the nozzle of a gas pump that has been handled by thousands of people with poor personal hygiene?”

      You must never go out and do things like enter a department store or a restaurant or public building.

    3. You can occasionally find a full service aisle at a California gas station. Rare, but they do still exist. And they do more than pump our gas! They will clean your windows and check your fluids. Heh.

      1. I hear that is why Michael Jackson always wore one white glove.

      2. That’s more than they let you do in the strip club.

    4. handled by thousands of people with poor personal hygiene

      But enough about your wife…

    5. So, if you can’t find a full-service gas station then that certainly sounds like consumer choice in action to me.

      The consumers have chosen not to pay the extra that would be required to maintain a full-service infrastructure.

      If you *really* wanted full-service, you would have hired someone to travel with you to pump the gas for you – *you* have chosen.

      1. Seriously though – at least if you have a disabled placard you can get an employee to come out and pump the gas for you. You just have to let them know you need assistance.

    6. What about consumer choice? The consumers in New York and Connecticut have chosen. They would rather pump their own gas. If there was significant demand for full service gas stations in those states, it would be easy to find full service stations.

    7. OTOH, if it’s a dedicate self-service pump, the handle never gets greasy from a gloved mechanic.

      My friend Bob Blumetti, formerly of NY, now of Pennsylvania, likes driving in NJ for the same reason you do. It’s a common complaint of deregulation: that because one choice is settled on overwhelmingly by buyers and sellers, forbidding or allowing a certain product or service doesn’t affect the amount of choice consumers have, it just switches what’s offered from one to the other. He finds that in practice allowing self-service eliminates the choice he prefers, so that in his case only prohibition causes businesses to offer his preference.

    8. Good GOD I hope you’re joking.

  3. I try to avoid having to fill up any time I pass through Jersey for this exact reason (price also is a small factor.)
    It pissed me off last time I had to. I don’t want the attendant taking my card. I don’t want him touching my car. I am not tipping a lazy bastard for basically swiping my card and turning on the pump. I found it interesting that the pumps in Jersey are really just self-service units where they make work for people to get in the way and slow you down.

    1. But you tip a lazy bastard for cracking open a beer can?

    2. Of course they are self-service units. Who would build special fuel dispensers just for New Jersey and Oregon?

      As for why full-service is almost nonexistent where self-service is allowed, there might be many people that say they want full-service, but less than 10% that will pay 2 cents more for it. Put a full-service and a self-service pump side by side with a 2 cent per gallon premium on full-service, and there will be cars waiting in line for the cheaper gas before there’s even one sale for full-service.

      Nor is MasterThief the only one who prefers self-service even without a price differential. I remember family trips long before self-service was invented, and my Dad popping out of the car to pump the gas himself, if they’d let him. He managed a gas station himself, so hired and trained pump jockeys himself – and he’d much rather check the oil himself, many of them would not meet his standards for washing the windshield, and he just didn’t want to wait for the pump jockey to get there and start the pump. (And I’ve never heard of tipping one.)

      Pump jockeys did one useful thing; back when credit cards were rare, and most gas stations would charge a markup for using one rather than eating the transaction fees, the pump jockey would take your cash to the register and bring back your change. Of course, that doesn’t matter to anyone who uses the credit card accepter that’s now built right into the pump.

  4. The fact that no other gas stations IN the USA outside of Oregon and NJ have full-service tells you that Americans don’t want that as a thing.

    If Oregon and NJ repealed their laws on the subject, gas stations are still free to have Full-Service fueling services available.

    Free market! Free market!

  5. When I was a kid, all gas stations were full-service where the attendant would not only pump your gas but would wash your windshield and check your oil. And gas was 30 cents per gallon. Now they’ve gotten rid of the attendants and gas is nearly 3 dollars per gallon. Coincidence? I think not – with nobody there at the filling station manning the pumps the greedy gas companies can just sneak in there and change the price on the gas with nobody to stop them. Bring back full-service gas stations and I’m sure gasoline will return to 30 cents per gallon.

    1. Quality analytics!

    2. I don’t swing that way, I don’t want some stranger sticking his dip-stick in my engine. 🙂

  6. It’s hilarious listening to people from New Jersey and Oregon defend laws mandating full service stations. The shit that comes out of their mouths must be heard to be believed.

    1. These two states also have economies worse than states of comparable size.

      Lefties ruin everything.

      1. Not to mention taxes.

        But to paraphrase the Demotivator poster, perhaps the purpose of some States is to serve as warnings to others.

    2. It’s hilarious listening to people [insert state] defend laws mandating [crazy ass things]. The shit that comes out of their mouths must be heard to be believed.

      Fill in the blanks. State owned liquor stores, no sales of chorizo after midnight, etc.

      1. Georgia even has a few cities that have laws requiring all males to have guns.

        I am 100% pro-Arms, but the excessive amount of laws is a ridiculous concept and these laws should be repealed immediately.

    3. It’s embarrassing to read it. I can’t believe they’re sincere. What a bunch of highminded pussies.

  7. Oddly enough, New Jersey‘s prohibition applies only to gasoline and not to diesel fuel.

    1. Teamster carve out?

      1. +10

      2. Undoubtedly. The Truckers Association is also an influential lobby.

  8. I drove through Oregon a couple weeks back, and for the first time ever pulled into an Oregon Love’s and was able to fill my own tank.

    Because I had so much more time and was already out of the car, I went in and bought $9+ of snacks and coffee.

    Life was good, at least till I got near Portland…

  9. The town in Mass I grew up in was mostly all full service when I was a kid, but my dad would always drive to fill up at the self service station in the next town because he suspected the full service was cheating him and they charged 20 cents more per gallon at least. Anyways, it will probably be a moot point in the near future once EVs are mandated. Oregon and Joisy will probably mandate full service only charging

    1. My dad had a job as a gas station attendant. They taught him all the tricks. Sometimes he would reminisce by singing the S.O.B. song. (Standard Oil Boy).

    2. >>>once EVs are mandated

      Red Barchetta!

  10. These two laboratories of democracy fail to admit that their experiments had negative results.

  11. Once upon a time, not thinking too clearly, I tried to pump my own gas once while barely over the border into Oregon. Holy crap! They were one step away from calling the SWAT on me! Yikes!

    1. Well [in keeping with the OBLesque parody theme that runs through this particular thread] you were threatening their livelihood, were you not? But then SWAT teams need work too; see how all this works?

    2. I had the exact same thing happen. It wasn’t just the attendant, it was also all the other losersOregonians sitting in their cars that were murmuring their disapproval.

      The attendant told me both I and the station were going to be fined $500 for my horrifying behavior. I used my full tank of gas to leave the state…

  12. “All kinds of entry-level jobs are going away,” said Rep. Rob Nosse

    said the legislator who has probably done his bit to expand occupational licensing and add minimum wage laws.

  13. “…has in fact proven controversial with the many Oregonians who like being served at the pump and are all too happy to deny others the right to fill up their own tanks.”

    There’s a theme here.

  14. In NJ they let me pump diesel. The attendant said it was because diesel would not be ignited to cause a fire.

  15. In case you were wondering our hero Rep. Rob Nosse (D–Portland)

    Rob Nosse lives in SE Portland with his husband Jim. He has worked his entire life to drive social change for students and working families. For almost twenty years, Rob has stood up for working people as a union representative and helped raise the bar for middle class families. Currently, Rob works at the Oregon Nurses Association. He brings nurses together with a strong, united voice to advocate for themselves and their patients.


    One of the problems with pumping your own gas is that your fingers could smell like gasoline. Now imagine you pumped your own gas, got some gas on your fingers, and later on you wanted to pick your nose.

    1. The boogers come out easier with a bit of solvent. Two-fer!

  16. “Chances are they’ll be able to find work that better employs their talents, maybe even at the same gas station.”

    I feel like you might be overestimating how awesome the other jobs at the gas station are.

  17. I’ve pumped my own gas my entire life and I’ve only burned myself alive like two or three times

    1. Now you’re making the rest of us feel incompetent by comparison. Thanks a lot.

    2. This is outrageous. To any person with a disability going out of your car and pumping the gas yourself is clear discrimination. All gas stations should 100% be accommodating to all and any customers using them.

  18. I live in Oregon and came from California. I appreciate not having to pump my gas in the brutal hot Summer months and the freezing few Winter months; however for me at least, it’s about convenience (not skill or danger fears), unless it costs more, then I want choice.

    1. Uhm, it costs more. You don’t see that because *you don’t have a choice*. That attendant isn’t doing this as a hobby.

      . . . brutal hot summer months . . .

      Its Oregon. Does it even get above 85F there?

  19. Surprised Komrade Sanders hasn’t pushed for this in his home state, to forget the mandated 100% employment.

  20. “All kinds of entry-level jobs are going away,” said Rep. Rob Nosse (D–Portland)

    Try finding a bootblack nowadays.

  21. Mandatory full service creates jobs, they argue, while helping to keep Oregon Oregon.

    Mandatory gardeners, cooks, drivers, scullery maids, batmen, ladies-in-waiting, and game wardens would create jobs too.

    Imagine how nice things would be if you had a brigade de cuisine. All that good food, all those jobs.

  22. Often businesses are caught in the rules of other state agencies, particularly those charged with health and safety enforcement.

    Not long ago I was filling up my small fuel container ready to mow the lawns, holding it in front of me while I filled it. The pump attendant came over and insisted I place the container on the ground lest I drop it creating a hazard. In fact they somewhat insisted they take over to do the actual job of filling but a stern look disabused them of that notion.

    But if state safety rules imply a duty of care upon businesses to do every reasonable thing to reduce hazards, from a don’t-sue-me perspective it makes sense to do the job for customers all the while dressing it up as customer service.

  23. I’m amazed the commentariat, with the exception of Master Thief, has failed to note the gravest problem with requiring full service gas stations: You have to let a minimum wage employee touch your car. I narrowly escaped murder charges one time when this idiot in Portland LEANED HIS ASS AGAINST MY CAR after starting the pump. Maybe you don’t care, but I’ve spent a lot of time waxing my car over the 12 years I’ve owned it. It’s 19 years old but the paint looks better than 95% of cars I see on the road. Don’t tread on my paint!

    1. I’m not that good about upkeep on my car and it really isn’t a fancy/expensive model. Still, the attendant gave off a bad vibe from the first moment so I already had no trust. Similar to your situation, he proceeded to lean his ass against my car while it pumped (as i noted the handle didn’t have to be held throughout the fill.) It pissed me off because I didn’t consent to this whole arrangement and further, the guy had a set of keys hanging off a lanyard on his belt. He would have been in destination fucked if his carelessness scratched my paint

  24. No, no, no ! Residents of New Jersey and Oregon are KNOWN not to have adequate intelligence to operate service station pumps. Independent tests have shown them placing the nozzle in the wrong orifice of their cars not to mention those trying to insert the nozzle into various bodily orifices. The problem is so bad that they can’t even be trained. So Gas stations actually have to import workers from the other states to operate their pumps. Both New Jersey and Oregon try to keep this quiet because of the embarrassment for these states, but there it is.

  25. I always thought it was kind of cool. Hated having to pump my own gas when I left the state. Sort of a dumb and inefficient regulation, but much like crap-o airlines, the low cost option wins in the free market (or the ultra expensive first class option).

  26. When I lived in NJ in the 70s to combat no self serve people in the country had gas pumps at home. The excuse for no self serve was safety. Somehow I bet having a gas pump at home is less safe.

    1. In Michigan farmers could (and presumably still do) have fuel pumps on the farm to fuel their tractors with gas that was exempt from road tax – which reduced the price by about a third, but why pay road tax for equipment that didn’t drive on the public roads? (Except for big snowstorms, when my Dad and other part-time farmers would get their tractors out to clear the road so they could get to their jobs in town. The snowplow never got there until after the storm was completely over, and typically came just before the school bus.) The arrangement for a small farm was a large tank on a stand, with gravity feed to the pump nozzle. We’d call for a fuel truck to come out and refill it when needed.

      And of course, we _never_ fueled the car from that tax-free fuel. (;-)

  27. […] Oregon And New Jersey Are The Only States To Ban Self-Service Gas Stations. Mercifully, This Prohibition Is Starting To Fall Apart – Reason […]

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.