Full-Service Flap

Ore. station not breaking law by charging more vs. mini service
ASHLAND, Ore. -- The Oregon Department of Justice has found that a Shell gas station is not breaking the law by charging drivers significantly more at its full-service gas pumps without a sign detailing the extra cost to customers, reported The Mail Tribune. But the department has decided to look at whether state rules about gas station signs are adequate.

"As we received several consumer complaints regarding the lack of clarity to consumers as to the actual price of gasoline, we will undertake a review of the current rules, which were adopted in 1985, to determine [image-nocss] if there is a need for updating and revising these rules," Oregon Department of Justice enforcement officer Alicia Suarez explained in a letter obtained by the newspaper.

The letter was sent out this month to consumers who have complained about the station's long-term practice of charging more for gasoline at its full-service pumps, while only posting the mini-service pump price on a large sign. The price for gasoline at a full-service pump is listed on a small digital screen on the pump itself. Oregon and New Jersey are the only two states that do not allow self-service refueling.

Under state law, stations can charge more for full service, but need only to post the lowest cash price of each grade of gasoline on street signs, said the report; however, each pump has to show the price that will be charged based on whether the consumer is paying for full service or mini service.

In January, an Ashland, Ore., driver complained that she was charged about $10 extra after she got gasoline and had her windshield washed and oil checked at one of the Valley View Shell station's full-service pumps. She complained to an employee and received a refund of the extra fee. She then filed a complaint with the Department of Justice.

Other local stations said they offer services such as washing windshields for no extra cost when customers buy gasoline, according to the report.

On Friday afternoon, the price for gasoline at a mini-service pump at the Shell station was listed on the station's large sign at $2.359 per gallon, the paper said. The price on the small digital screen on each full-service pump was $2.799, or 44 cents more per gallon.

A motorist who pulled up at a full-service pump on Friday afternoon and asked for $5 worth of gas was told by a gas station attendant that she should consider moving to a mini-service pump because the price was cheaper there, the report said.

The station's owner, Frank Adler, said there is nothing wrong with charging more for full-service fuel without posting the price difference on the station's large road-side sign. "I'm doing everything completely legal. I've been doing it for 25 or 30 years," he told the Mail Tribune.

Adler said posting the price per gallon at a full-service pump up on his big sign along with the mini-service pump price would just confuse customers. There always would be customers who didn't notice the price difference anyway, he said.

Adler said if Attorney General John Kroger would like to change the requirements for how stations post prices, he will push for a repeal of Oregon's law that bans self-service. He said a self-service station only has to have one employee on at a time. But at his station, Adler said he has to have a person inside the station and two people manning the pumps.

According to Adler, he nets $1,400 a month for himself from the station. He said he pays his manager $2,000 a month and his assistant manager $1,700 a month, while other workers earn $9 per hour.

"I've got to make a living. I've got to keep my employeesand $1,400 a month out of that place is not very much," he said.

Asked if he thinks he has lost customers because of the higher price he charges for full-service, Adler responded, "Not at all. I'm not going to lower my prices and not make enough to live." He said that he has instructed his employees to offer a refund if a customer complains about the extra charge at a full-service pump.

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