Pumping gas

A year and a half ago, in the local subReddit for my city, I wrote a complaint:

My regular gas station for the past 16 years has now installed video that talks to you while you're pumping gas. And it’s not saying “Good morning” or “My, you look dapper today.” It’s running commercials, constantly — when one commercial ends, the next commercial begins, for as long as you’re standing there pumping gas.

This is a tiny indignity, yes, but I'd like to avoid it. Are there still any local gas stations that sell, you know — gas — without also selling real estate or Big Macs or vacations to Puerto Vallarta at the pump? Thanks.

From the answers to that post, I learned that I’m not the only person who's annoyed by gas pumps that talk, and that there's allegedly a “silence” switch that stops the ads until the next customer pulls up. Best of all, the forum’s answers pointed me toward two gas stations I’ve been using ever since, where there are no talking ads at the pump.

This morning I pulled my ancient Chevy into one of those two stations, and guess what? They’ve installed the new advertising pumps. I heard the yakking before I’d even opened my door. My tank was almost empty, though, so I decided to put up with it, just this once, and never return.

First, I eyeballed the pump, hoping to see the “please shut up” switch I’d been promised, but nope — there’s either no opting out, or they’ve hidden the "shut up" button quite well. There were four other cars pumping at other islands, and I could hear ads from every pump — even the pumps where no-one was pumping — so apparently people are willing to put up with this, but why?

I cursed and inserted my plastic, and clicked the ordinary buttons to make my purchase. But when I started pumping, or tried to, the pump wouldn’t pump. I re-squeezed the trigger/handle/doohickey a couple of times, thinking maybe the software was just moving slowly, until I understood that this wasn’t a malfunction. This is what the pump is programmed to do:

After you've selected low- medium- or high-octane gas, after the purchase has been authorized on your bank card, the pump’s on-screen advertising asks you to sign up for a BP credit card — and it won’t allow the pump to pump gas until you've answered either “Yes” or “Not now.”

This is no longer my time in America, or on this planet. I shook my head, mumbled some obscenities, and selected “Not now” because “Not ever” wasn’t an option. I filled my tank and drove away, never to be seen there again.



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  1. My feelings exactly. Whoever invented those pumps needs to be shot.

  2. Right up there with gas-powered leaf blowers as a pox on humanity.


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