Oregon Makes It Legal to Pump Your Own Gas. Blacksmiths and Elevator Operators Approve

JON C. HANCOCK

Those of us of a certain age (OK — anyone in their 60s or older) remember what it was like to go to a gas station when we were young. Back then, they were called “service stations” because ten seconds after you pulled in, three guys would tear out of the door and run to your car looking to — well — serve you.

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They wore uniforms and were unfailingly polite. One guy would ask if he could “fill it up” and what grade of fuel you wanted. Another guy would attack your windows with soapy water and a squeegee, while another would check your oil and ask if he could check your tires.

Back then, competition among service stations was fierce. While gas cost pretty much the same per gallon everywhere, it was “service” that spelled the difference between successful stations and failed businesses.

But “service stations” became an anachronism when people realized you didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to pump your own gas. So, like blacksmith shops and horse liveries, states sent “Full Service gas stations” to the same place they sent wheelwrights and mom-and-pop grocery stores.

By 2023, there were only two states where you had to wait for an attendant to pump your gas. Oregon and New Jersey were the only states where it was forbidden to touch the spigot. This means that residents in those two states had to wait for someone to ask them if they wanted fuel or not.

Is it that the residents of New Jersey and Oregon were dumber than the rest of America and couldn’t figure out how to pump their own gas? That may be true, but there was another, more practical reason.

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Gas station attendants are union workers. A union representing workers at grocery store fuel stations in Oregon predicted job losses and called the law a “blatant cash grab for large corporations.”

“With over 2,000 gas stations in Oregon, laying off just one employee per location represents millions of dollars a year that giant corporations are not paying in wages, benefits, and public payroll taxes,” said Sandy Humphrey, the secretary-treasurer of UFCW Local 555.

So this is not a question of stupid consumers. It’s a question of ignorant unions trying to block Oregon and New Jersey residents from saving a few bucks when they fill up their cars.

But now, Oregon residents will be able to pump their own gas — as long as the gas station offers self-service. As for the rest of consumers, many are having the same reaction that a human might have being dumped on an alien planet with weird and indecipherable machines.

Fox Business:

“We finally get to join the rest of the United States,” TikTok user @gingerstrax said in a post. “Well, other than New Jersey.”

Another user commented on how long the lines were in Oregon, as motorist begin learning how to do it themselves.

“While I was on my way to work today, I had to stop to get gas, and I quickly realized that today is the first day that Oregonians are allowed to pump their own gas,” TikTok user @sarahlynndub said. “There is nothing that confuses an Oregonian more than pumping their own gas.”

Other local expressed their excitement about the new law.

“Today was day one where we were allowed to pump our own gas, I was super excited to go and do this myself,’ said TikTok user @pnw.bethany.

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Not much to do in Oregon, I guess, if you get “excited” about pumping your own gas.

If the only justification for not allowing people to pump their own gas was that it would cost jobs, you have to wonder how many blacksmiths, wheelwrights, and elevator operators there still are in both Oregon and New Jersey.

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