Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Gas and Service

There was a time long ago when a trip to the gas station brought a service station attendant to the driver’s window. It was always a he in my experience and the usual practice was for the driver to say “fill’er up” or maybe, “10 gallons” or something like that. The service station attendant might nod but then usually it was “Check your oil?” The oil check was an option, but they would always clean your windshield. That was assumed.

In the present self service world the gas station attendant has given way to the cashier. However, service station attendant remains as a defined job in the Standard Occupational Classification. In the Standard Occupational Classification a service station attendant may lubricate a vehicle, change motor oil, install antifreeze or replace lights or other accessories in addition to fuel service.

Service Station attendant is 4 to 5 percent of gasoline station employment nationwide. Oregon is one of only several states that does not permit self-serve gasoline stations. A service station attendant must pump your gas. Apparently in the state of Oregon the driving public cannot be trusted to avoid smoking, lighting matches or leaving their car motor running when they fill up. Safety requires a service station attendant.

In 2004 the 50 states average of service station attendants per 100,000 population is 412, but 34 states have 412 or less. The low is South Carolina with 132 service station attendants per 100,000 population. In Oregon it is 2,163 service station attendants per 100,000 population, more than 5 times the national average.

Self-serve gas is a do-it-yourself job for everybody: a true social leveler. In the Washington, DC area it is not uncommon to see someone in fancy business clothes pop out of a shiny BMW and pump their own gas. These people may be going off to important policy meetings with gas on their hands, but not in Oregon. Oregon’s regulation helps us notice the trade off between jobs and social equality. Viva la service.

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