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Dr. Delay: Full-service gas stations nearly extinct

Motorists who need help in refueling their vehicles know that finding gas stations with convenient access isn't always easy. Finding a station that provides service beyond fuel assistance is the real challenge. Reader Jean Napper wrote:

"My Chevron station, which provided a full-service gas pump, no longer sells gas. Are there any gas stations in Pinellas with full service left? I know that the Americans With Disabilities Act requires that assistance be available to individuals with handicaps at no charge. But this is not usually easily available, and it only requires pumping. I don't mind paying the extra charge at full-service pumps in order to have fluids checked and tires checked, as well as windows washed. But at a minimum, it should be easier to get gas pumped for you. Any advice?"

Unfortunately, full-service filling stations have become nearly extinct. The Doc happily runs across them when traveling through some Southern states, but they are few and far between. Although gas stations are required by law to provide pumping assistance to the disabled, traditional full-service stations that provide window washing, tire pressure checks and oil checks are rare. And the definition of "full service" is not universally understood. The Doc made calls to a half dozen gas stations around the county and found that all the employees described their stores as "full service," but when I asked whether they checked tire pressure and fluid levels, they said no; they help with gas pumping only.

The few true full-service gas stations left in Pinellas County can usually be found by visiting the Web sites of major gasoline retailers. The Doc invites readers to weigh in on this one: Tell us about a local full-service gas station you use, and we'll compile a list to share with readers.

Gas prices

Look out for signs that lure with low cash rates

Beware the fine print when it comes to gassing up your ride. Reader Richard Simoff says he was misled into buying gas that cost more than it appeared based on the gas station's sign. Simoff wrote:

"Doc Delay, recently I went to a gas station, where the price of a regular gallon of gas was posted as $2.53. At the pump I noticed the price I was being charged was $2.58 because I was using a credit card. Nowhere that I noticed was there any indication that there was one price for cash and another for credit. Isn't this deceptive pricing? Shouldn't stations more clearly state what their prices are?"

Ah, free enterprise! What some of us may refer to as deceptive advertising, others may term a simple sales gimmick. Gas stations should be required to have more clearly posted prices and conditions that apply. If a gas price seems too good to be true or is well below what other area stations are charging, it's probably a cash-only proposition.

The reasoning behind different prices for gasoline when using cash vs. credit or debit cards is that retailers incur a fee when we use plastic, so they are motivated to encourage cash transactions. That makes sense, but luring motorists with low prices posted on the road with fine print that spells out the real deal isn't a full-on bait-and-switch, but it is a bit predatory. Some folks don't realize their folly until it's too late — they've already starting pumping the gas, so they figure the heck with it and fill up. Others fill their tank under the happy delusion that they just got themselves a deal, oblivious that they paid up to 10 cents more per gallon than they thought.

At some gas stations, you'll notice an asterisk next to the posted gasoline prices and smaller type somewhere below spells out the conditions. Some retailers are more forthcoming in their signs, and it's clear that the lower price is for cash transactions. But certain retailers are more egregious offenders than others, so make a mental note of those and avoid them.

Doc Delay is on twitter! Get news from the road at www.twitter.com/DocDelay. Please e-mail Dr. Delay at docdelay@yahoo.com to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions.

Dr. Delay: Full-service gas stations nearly extinct 02/20/10 [Last modified: Saturday, February 20, 2010 3:31am]
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