Susan's Super Citizen Showcase

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Frustration at the station

BC pay at the pump sticker“Card cannot be read. Please see attendant.”

So reads the text on the gas pump payment screen. This transmission is followed by a muffled voice coming through a speaker:

“Please come and bring the card inside.”

It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m feeling pretty relaxed – but I can see the gas station employees are in a much different mood. An older man, the owner / manager, rushes past me to the counter and asks the cashier: “Is it not working again?”

This is not the first time I’ve seen gas station employees strugging with the new pre-payment system that came into effect in B.C. on February 1, 2008 – a change to B.C.’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulation that was conceived to protect the safety of gas station employees.

Section 4.22.2 of this Regulation states: “An employer at a gas station or retail fueling outlet must ensure that customers prepay for all vehicle fuel. This requirement applies 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and includes full-serve and self-serve establishments.”

The intent of this Regulation, says WorkSafeBC, is to protect gas station workers from “the hazards of gas and dash activities.” This change comes after a tragic incident in 2005 when a 20-year-old gas station employee, Grant De Patie, died at work while trying to get the license plate number of a car driven by a someone who had stolen $12.30 worth of gas. The young man was killed after being hit by the car and dragged for seven kilometres.

Grant’s dad, Doug, said his son had been intimidated and bullied by gas station owners who deducted the cost of stolen gas from his wages. Doug lobbied the B.C. government to change the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation and protect gas station workers by requiring pre-payment of fuel.

As fuel costs rise, the temptation to gas and dash also increases. Next door in Alberta, Calgary police says that 212 fuel thefts were reported between January and March of this year, compared to 139 in the first three months of 2007, according to a May 27 article in the Calgary Sun. This same article quotes Alberta premier Ed Stelmach, who as yet has no plans to implement a similar law in his province. “We’ll be looking at the B.C. law very closely.”

How do gas station workers feel about this new law? Do they feel safer?

On many occasions – like today – I see gas station employees serving customers who are visibly irritated by a variety of pre-payment glitches. Once an angry customer pleaded: “Could you please just give me back my money? I don’t have time for this!” The customer had paid for his gas, but the pump wasn’t working. Every time he pressed on the pump handle, the gas flow started for only a second and then shut off again. The same thing had happened to me and I had to try a few different ways of grasping the pump to get it going. The poor cashier – a gentle, soft-spoken young woman who recently moved here from China – tried to explain a solution, but the frustrated customer seemed in a big hurry and just yelled at her.

Other customers wonder how they can pre-pay if they don’t know exactly how much it will cost to fill the tank. This also takes a lot of explanation from the cashier. Today, when I went inside to pay, I asked the cashier: “Is this pre-paying method making your job harder?”

He nodded yes, rolled his eyes, and laughed. Then the owner-manager rushed up to me and said: “It is causing so much trouble for my business! Now, everybody wants to pay at the pump and people don’t want to come in and buy things from the store!” he exclaimed in a thick Indian accent, his face reddening, as he gestured at the aisles of chips, candies, and convenience store items. “Now our sales on store items is down 25 percent! The government is putting in their noses where they don’t belong!”

“Well the point of the new law is to protect workers safety, isn’t it?” I asked.

“Yes – but that is just a joke! The government should just hire more police – like in Germany! Here there are not enough beat police! The government doesn’t want to take responsibility! They just want to put responsibility for safety onto us! They talk about carbon tax, but the people in the government just go around driving their cars! They want people to recycle, but people don’t recycle! They just dump their garbage – big old TVs – in the parking lot of the gas station! Where are the police!? The police should stop them from dumping their garbage like that! We need more police!”

I stood nodding as the voice of the owner-manager increased in volume and pitch. The cashier blushed and smiled slightly.

“Wow. It sounds like a very frustrating situation,” I said, backing towards the door.

The owner-manager suddenly stopped, shrugged, and smiled slightly. “Yes, yes it is.”

“Well, uh, thanks…” I said, backing out the door, not really sure what else to say. I filled my little Toyota Echo ($49.13) and returned to the cashier to get my “refund” – since I had paid $60 on my bank card, they owed me $10.87. The cashier had the money ready as soon as I stepped inside. Was he being considerate or was he scared I’d get the owner-manager all riled up again?


At Sun Jun 01, 03:41:00 PM PDT , Blogger Shihtzu Staff said...

I just pay at the pump. That is what I have always done anyway. I have not noticed a big change. If I can't pay at the pump then I find another pump...LOL


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