Makin' Customers Pay First

New Macon, Ga., police chief backs prepay fueling ordinance

MACON, Ga. -- New Macon, Ga., Police Chief Mike Burns said he supports the proposal of his predecessor, Rodney Moore, to make all Macon gas stations require customers to pay for gasoline before they pump, reported The Macon Telegraph. He said that he will lobby the City Council to pass the ordinance.

If we didn't have to respond to gas driveoffs, that would be more time to be proactive in the community, he said.

In 2004, stations reported 949 gasoline driveoffs to Macon police, which made up 9% of all crimes for the year, according [image-nocss] to the report, citing the city's police statistics. This year through April, 206 driveoffs have been reported, down from 230 last year during the same time period.

Fast Lane Foods has not had anyone drive away without paying in about a month in a half, said the report. Drivers now have to pay first. Satya Ragunathan, the store's assistant manager, told the newspaper that rising gasoline prices led to the decision, which he said led to a nearly 10% decrease in gasoline sales and some frustrated customers.

But he said his station, like most, makes little profit on gasoline. One driveoff could wipe out a day's gasoline profit, he said.

Police Captain Tonie Williams told the Telegraph that many stations need to do more to prevent gasoline theft. If you are going to report it to police as a crime, you should also, as a business owner, implement something to eliminate this type of act.

He said police have worked with some businesses that have seen large drops in the number of driveoffs. One station reduced driveoffs from 76 one month to 16 the next. In that case, police worked with the business and discovered that the driveoffs happened most often when certain employees were working. But Williams said it is often not the employees' fault, because the station may have more than 20 pumps to watch.

Jim Tudor, executive director of the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores (GACS), told the paper that he has spoken with Macon retailers who think the ordinance would put Macon stations at a disadvantage. People with the opportunity to go to another station would fill up outside the city limits if it was more convenient, he said. Convenience stores are all about the convenience, he said.

Tudor added that customers would be less likely to make other purchases if they are required to pay for gasoline before they pump it. And, he said, that is the reason most stations continue to allow people to pay after they pump. If there's no additional benefit to post-pay, why would we expose ourselves to that loss? he asked.

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