Olson: Pet peeves at self-service gas stations

Eric Olson

My brother moved to Oregon a few years ago, which is one of two states in the country where you are not allowed to pump your own gas. (The other is New Jersey.)

In Oregon, every time you stop at a gas station, someone comes out and pumps the gas and often washes the windshield, and so on.

Some people laugh at this prohibition on pumping your gas, but these are the only places I've visited where the concept of being a "service station" has remained intact.

As consumers, we place so much importance on spending the least amount possible per gallon that it's seen by some as the only thing that matters. It's not.

Here are a few pet peeves that I – and I'll bet a lot of you other drivers out there – have encountered at gas stations I've visited around the country:

Broken window squeegees. Too often, window squeegees are bowed, the spongy end is all shredded, or the squeegee blade is worn. When the thing’s broken, replace it.

Frozen/missing washing solution. Nothing is more annoying than going to pull the squeegee out only to find it frozen in place or bone dry. Now I'm $5 into a fill-up and I can't clean my windshield? Not coming back.

Missing paper towels. A gas station that doesn’t provide paper towels is like a restaurant without napkins. Without towels to wipe the squeegee blade, you get dirty streaks on the windshield, and sometimes there are stains that need some elbow grease. Some people even check their oil at service stations. This is a necessity, not an extra.

Broken gas pump handles. The pump handles should be able to dispense fuel without having to squeeze them continuously. The more time your hand spends on the pump handle, the more you’re going to smell like gas afterward. Plus, I have to clean the windshield. I can't be standing there the whole time.

Dirty hands. Gas pump handles also are one of the most common means of spreading germs. A test of gas pump handles in 2015 by Kimberly-Clark Corp. found that 71 percent of them were "highly contaminated" with microbes that cause illness and disease. Put some hand sanitizer on your pumps, and I won't leave feeling dirty – I'll feel like you care about me.

No air. Tires get low on air, especially in the wintertime. A place that doesn’t make me hunt around for quarters or charge $1 on my credit card will have my gratitude and my gasoline business. The compressor should actually work, too. The disappearing number of air stations are why you see so many people driving around on tires that are clearly low on air.

No vacuum. Kids can make a huge mess in the back seat without warning. Make a vacuum available.

• Bad coffee. If you're going to sell coffee – and you should – keep it fresh, don't let it get all brackish and burned. And people like the flavored creamers. Have the big three – Irish creme, hazelnut and French vanilla.

A station owner who avoids these problems should succeed, even if customers have to pay 30 or 40 cents more for a fill-up.

• Eric Olson is group editor of Shaw Media. Reach him at 815-756-4841, ext. 2257, email, or follow him on Twitter @DC_Editor.