New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy may have caved on closing all the gun stores during the pandemic, but there’s one place where he’s drawing a bright red line in the sand. You people simply can not be trusted to pump your own gas. This has been a bone of contention in New Jersey for ages, and some proponents of doing things the way that virtually the entire rest of the country does it hoped that the current, dire conditions might move the Governor to reconsider. One such group is the New Jersey Gasoline, Convenience, Automotive Association (NJGCA).
Sal Risalvato, NJGCA Executive Director, surveyed his members on the issues they are currently facing with the Coronavirus and found the following:
Employees that work as gas attendants do not feel safe having contact with customers who may be infected with Coronavirus since it is impossible to maintain the 6-foot distance required while interacting all day with motorists to conduct the fueling of their vehicle.
Many motorists have the exact same concern as many of the attendants. They do not want to break the 6-foot social distancing guidelines by having contact or interaction with gas attendants. There have been many instances in which motorists have insisted on pumping their own gas and have refused to allow attendants to even touch their credit cards.
It apparently didn’t take long for the Governor to consider the request and flatly deny it.
PLEASE NOTE: We have no plans to turn our gas stations into self-serve at this time.
Please DO NOT pump your own gas.
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) March 30, 2020
Everyone arguing in favor of lifting the ban is citing the state of Oregon. Half of the state has a similar ban in place but on Friday they temporarily suspended the rule, allowing gas stations to offer self serve if they wished to do so.
I can understand the arguments being made by those who want the ban lifted, at least to a certain degree. If you’re practicing social distancing, you don’t want the pump jockey coming up and sticking his head in your window. And as for the attendants, they no doubt are worried about coming that close to so many random motorists. Some of them don’t even want to come into work under these conditions.
But neither situation seems ideal in terms of avoiding the virus. Even if you let the attendant pump the gas you’ve still got to pay for it. Handing your credit card back and forth without gloves and sanitizer (or even cash, for that matter) poses a risk. Unless you’ve got some sort of app on your phone to order and pay for your gas you’re going to be breaking the six-foot rule. If the pump has the ability to accept a credit card, I suppose you could work up some sort of social distancing dance where the attendant stands back, you get out of your car, put the card in the slot and authorize the payment, then get back in your car before they come to fill it up. But that’s going to slow down the line of customers considerably.
And even if you do that, the attendant will need to sanitize the pump’s payment screen, buttons, etc. between each customer. And if you let the customer pump the gas, they’ll have to sanitize the pump handle as well as the credit screen. There just doesn’t seem to be an ideal solution to the issue available.
With that in mind, I’m not really dunking on the governor so much about refusing to temporarily lift the ban as I am about having the ban in the first place during more “normal” times. Do the people of New Jersey simply accept the fact that they’re too stupid or incompetent to be able to fill up a gas tank the same way literally hundreds of millions of drivers around the rest of the country do every day? Nobody is saying you have to fill up the tank yourself. You can always find a station where an attendant will come out and do it for you. It’s just an option.
All this ban does is drive up the price of gasoline because of the labor costs associated with having pump jockeys doing the work. And perhaps that’s the goal of it. But the bottom line is that people are already freaked out enough about the pandemic as it is. If they feel better/safer pumping their own gas, just let them do it. You can always go back and revisit the question after the pandemic is finished.