For more than 60 years, New Jersey and Oregon have made it illegal to pump your own gas. Why?
(Photo Credit: Helen Cook/Flickr)
Some background first. New Jersey banned self-service at gas stations in 1949 and Oregon did so in 1951. Throughout much of the country, self-service was rare until 1970s, but as self-service became the norm, most states and customers embraced it. But, not New Jersey and Oregon — and though they have occasionally flirted with the idea of lifting their self-service ban, it remains in place today.
The main economic reason behind the ban is jobs, writes Slate‘s Matthew Yglesias. By making self-service illegal, it gives a job to the full-service gas station attendant. If working as a gas station attendant doesn’t seem like a terribly profitable profession, you’re right. The median yearly salary for a gas station attendant is $17,389, according to PayScale.
The economic drawback to full-service is it makes the gas more expensive for customers. But the Garden State has counteracted that by having a relatively low gas tax. The average price of a gallon of gas in New Jersey is $3.37. In Oregon, the average gallon costs $3.68, which is lower than its northern neighbor Washington ($3.71) and much cheaper than its southern counterpart California ($3.99, only Hawaii has higher gas prices).
Beyond economics, having full-service only gas stations also has a cultural implement, Dan Lavey, a public relations executive in Portland, told The New York Times in 2006.
“The joke is when babies are born in Oregon, the doctor slaps their bottom, ‘No self-serve and no sales tax,'” Lavey said. “That about sums it up. It’s as much a cultural issue as an economic issue. It’s a way of life.”
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