Union County residents are receiving an increasing number of opportunities to pump their own gas, and many motorists appear to be embracing it.
At least eight gas stations throughout the county are now providing motorists with the option of pumping their own fuel rather than having an attendant do it for them.
Union County gas stations have had the opportunity to do this since Jan. 1, 2018, when a self-service law took effect in Oregon for counties with less than 40,000 residents. The law allows stations in these counties to offer self-service at all hours.
The option is revolutionary because state law has mandated that gas be pumped by attendants during business hours since 1951, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. Today, Oregon and New Jersey are the only states in which self-service is not available everywhere.
The Texaco station at 2112 Island Ave. is one of at least two La Grande stations that started offering a self-service option in early April. The vast majority of drivers now getting gas at the station are pumping their own, according to the assistant manager, John Malcher.
Tyler Nice, a supervisor at the station, said drivers from outside Oregon quickly welcomed the option.
“They are used to (self-service) and love pumping their own gas because they don’t have to wait,” Nice said.
A number of local motorists, though, did not feel the same way, at least initially.
“Some people were upset because they were not familiar with (self-service),” Nice said.
Malcher said many of these people picked up on how to pump their own gas quickly and now like the self-service. He said that before the Texaco station began offering self-service, the station had employees who pumped gas full-time. These employees have been reassigned to maintenance and utilitarian duties.
Another La Grande station that began offering a self-service option this year is Oak Street Mobil, which began doing so April 1. Customers there have the option of pumping their own gas or having an attendant do it. Kyndra Ritchie, a supervisor at Oak Street Mobil, said the vast majority of the station’s customers prefer to pump their own gas. She said some customers new to pumping gas have made mistakes that have caused problems. For example, one person drove off with the fuel pump nozzle was still attached to the vehicle, causing minor damage.
La Grande’s Shell gas station at 2614 Island Ave. has offered a self-service option since January of 2018, but attendants still come out to greet motorists and offer them service. This can surprise motorists from out of state.
“Sometimes they are startled. They don’t know what we are here for,” said Cat Henderson, a cashier for the Shell station.
She said the Shell staff is more than happy to pump gas for customers.
“Some have lived their whole lives in Oregon. They don’t want to pump their own gas since that is how they grew up (not pumping gas). That’s what we are here for,” Henderson said.
She noted that when the weather is bad, people who otherwise pump their own gas might want to let attendants do it instead. She said with a laugh that Oregonians have gotten a little “spoiled” because for years they haven’t had to pump their gas in inclement weather.
At the Chevron Gem Stop on Island Avenue, which also provides the self-service option, about half of the customers take the opportunity to pump their own fuel. Bimon Lavror, an attendant, said some customers are not familiar with the process of pumping gas and he periodically sees confused looks on the faces of people he assists.
Motorists can also choose self-service or be served by an attendant at La Grande Chevron on Adams Avenue. About 20% of its customers choose the self-service option, said Brian Bradley, an attendant there. He estimates that between 30 and 35% of the motorists his station serves are from out of state.
See complete story in Wednesday's Observer