On Sunday we had a day trip to New York. The main goal was to get the feel for New York during the holidays. While getting this experience we visited the Central Park Zoo and the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center. Time in between was just gettting back and forth between the two destinations with stops at some stores.
There were a few notable things I would comment on.
- New Jersey full service gas stations law. I used New Jersey gas stations at least a couple times before. First time I was intrigued by the fact that I could not pump my own gas as I always do anywhere else. I was wondering why it was a law in the past, but never went to the trouble of researching it more. This time, probably this is the mindset being forged by my part-time MBA program, I had some explanation of my own and I was determined to check out if it had anything in common with reality.
First for my explanation. I thought that New Jersey either had an unproportionately high ratio of high-school drop-outs or unprecedently conscious law makers who were concerned about the fate of high school drop-outs, so this law was the way to deal with this social and economic issue by providing thousands or may be tens of thousands jobs to these people.
I did some research on internet and digged out a few interesting facts. My assumptions were not directly confirmed by those findings. Nevertheless, here are the facts:
- The law to ban self-service gas stations in New Jersey was made in 1949. Rationale for it was that it was safer to allocate a trained person to do it (today the attendants have to log 8 hours of training before being qualified to do that job). I don’t remember having any formal training before I pumped gas for the first time in my car
- Today the full-service gas stations have become a part of Jersey “identity”. Many Jersyites have become so used to having their gas pumped by an attendant that they feel that removing this law will deprive them from their inherent rights and identity. They also have pity for the rest of the country where people still have to do this “dirty job” themselves and yet pay higher prices for self-service gas.
- New Jersey does indeed have some of the lowest gas prices in the nation. It hardly has anything to do with full service gas dispension, but rather with the low gas taxes imposed by the state.
- Given all the surrounding circumstances, the issue of full-service gas station is highly sensitive and very explosive political and economical matter in the state. The latest attempt to remove this law by the state governor in 2006 was a huge fiasco and disgrace for him.
- Tipping the gas station attendant is optional. Most Jersyites have never done it, nor have they ever seen any of their acquantainces or neighbors do it. (Since I was not aware of this until now I did tip gas station attendents every time I had my tank filled in New Jersey)
- Oregon is the only other state in the nation who makes a company to New Jersey by enforcing full-service gas stations law.
So I admit, I was wrong to tie the issue so narrowly to the high school drop-outs. I was close to evaluating New Jersey law makers as very “conscious”, as they did defeat the governor in his attempt to remove the law, and they did upheld the New Jersey “pride” by keeping the outdated law. If not for any other reason than keeping the privilege to have their own tanks filled without leaving the comfort of their vehicles. It did have a trickle down beneficial effect on all other “concerned” citizens of the state. Oh, as additional side effect it did save jobs for some 1-2% of the state population, majority of whom are the voters. But isn’t this how politics work anyways?
As for me, I did appreciate paying a lower price for gas, even though it was a very minimal difference after adding a tip.