Not oil’s well at the pump

You would think that we are enduring enough agony by paying record high gasoline prices. According to the Associated Press, the average cost of a gallon of gasoline is now $3.365 a gallon. That tracks correctly with gas prices here in Northern Virginia. Recently it cost me more than $40 to fill the 12 gallon tank of my fuel efficient Honda Civic Hybrid. Ouch!

Apparently, all those press reports about oil companies making record profits does not mean that oil companies are beyond inventing new ways to make us feel even more screwed. To help their bottom line, most gas stations offer a convenience store that tends to excel at providing convenient fattening and sugary foods. Some gas stations will still change your oil or fix your car, but they are becoming fewer and further between. Finding a gas station that has a compressed air pump for your tires is also getting problematical. Those stations that have them generally want you to insert quarters into their machine for the privilege. Thus far, gas stations have not figured out a way to charge you for wiping down your own windshields, but I suspect that is coming.

No matter, gas stations have found a new way to make money that is far more annoying than anything they have done so far, which says a lot. It started with many stations making you listen to audio advertising while you pump. As long as you are at the pump, they figured you had to learn about all the great things they were offering. Now it is not enough to assault you with audio advertising. Now you get your own commercial spouting TV right at the pump!

Sunoco, curse them, is the latest oil company to install these obnoxious devices at the pump. Naturally, there is no off button that you can press to escape these advertisements. Nor is there any way to adjust the volume. It is at near ear splitting volume. Moreover, since pretty much all of us have to get gas regularly, we become involuntary captives of this advertising.

Sadly, Sunoco is everywhere in my neighborhood, which means if I want to patronize a different chain I really have to go out of my way. I am going to go out of my way anyhow, because of this latest egregious indignity. It is also needless noise pollution. You can hear these talking pumps hundreds of feet away.

Sunoco seems to be partnering with ESPN. In between long advertisements, you get brief sports updates and something reputing to be the local weather. I guess this is how they justify their assault. All I know is that I cringe. I move as far away from the pump as possible while my car fills up. Yet even if I had my MP3 player in my ears, I could not begin to tune out the noise from these pumps. You are essentially captive.

Perhaps to add a few more nickels to their profits they will adjust the pumps to pump gas more slowly. This way instead of two to three minutes of listening to advertising, it could be extended to five minutes. This will be good for their bottom line. Perhaps in an effort to escape the noise we will be driven inside to their convenience store. I hope they sell 80db earplugs.

Alas, gas stations are hardly the only offenders. I remarked before about mobile advertising, which I still think should be outlawed. I have mentioned movie theaters that are putting advertising in restroom stalls and in front of urinals. Even my local BJ’s Wholesale Club has decided I need to hear commercials while I shop. Along with the piped in music we now get about 30% commercials. It is enough to make me join Costco.

Certain things in life, like shopping, eating and going to the bathroom are unavoidable. Where these unavoidable activities intersect with profit, wise companies should be going the extra mile to make us want to shop there, not drive us away. Going to these places should to the largest extent possible be pleasant, not aggravating. This should not be rocket science. I have to wonder what sort of public relation morons thought up these latest ideas. It is as if they want their customers to loathe their products.

I’d say they are doing a great job. Oil companies though have no place to go but up in the public’s opinion. Given this sad fact of life, I have to wonder why oil companies want us to have an even more aggravating experience at the pump then they already provide.

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