Pump Progress

By Jayson Jacoby / The Baker City Herald

Limited Self-Service Refueling Law Takes Effect, Giving Drivers A New Option But Causing Problems For Some Stations

For over six decades, most Oregonians have been prohibited from pumping their own gas.

But a bill passed last year and signed into law by Gov. Kate Brown allows gas stations in Oregon counties with a population less than 40,000 - including Baker County - to have pumps that let drivers purchase and pump their own gas between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The law is not mandatory.

Baker County's two state legislators - Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, and State Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day - both backed the bill.

But at least one local station manager said the law, which took effect Jan. 1, has had unfortunate consequences.

Amber Smith, who manages the USA station and convenience store on East Campbell Street, said the law frustrates her.

While Smith agrees the limited self-service law would benefit more remote towns such as John Day or Halfway, she is seeing firsthand how the law is affecting her customers and employees.

Smith said the company has reduced staff at her store to one employee from 6 p.m. until the store closes at 10 p.m.

The employee works only in the store and can't pump gas, since it's self-serve only between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

"It's impacting employees because their hours have been cut," Smith said. "Customers are getting frustrated because they are sitting in their car waiting for someone to pump their gas. Customers just aren't ready for the change."

Smith said it has not been an easy transition to the new law. Cash customers who are used to paying an attendant have to come inside to pay and they often have to come inside to get help from the cashier who can give instructions on refueling, but only from inside the store.

"It's been a hassle," she said.

Smith said many of her employees are looking for new jobs because of the reduction in their hours.

After the store closes at 10 p.m., the gas pumps are open only to credit or debit card customers until 6 a.m.

Smith doesn't think the self serve option is much of an advantage in Baker City.

"There are three other places in town open 24 hours where people can get their gas pumped and not have to get out of their car," Smith said.

The Truck Corral is one of those 24-hour gas stations. Owner Kurt Miller said he doesn't intend to offer self-serve pumps at the Truck Corral.

Miller said that if he ever upgrades his pumps to allow self service at them, he would not let any of his employees go.

"We'll just find other things for them to do," Miller said.

Representatives from Maverik and Jackson's - the two other 24-hour fuel stations - could not be reached for comment.

Joe Shaffer, manager of the Chevron Food Mart at Main and Resort streets, posted a sign on the station's entrance saying self-serve gas is not available now.

But that probably will change in the future, Shaffer said.

The Chevron station is slated for a gas pump upgrade in the near future and Shaffer expects that they will offer the self-serve option.

"I'm pretty sure when that happens, when we turn off the lights, people will be able to pump their own gas," he said.

Shaffer said the nature of competition dictates that most gas stations will offer the after hours self-service option.

Shaffer said attendants at the Chevron station have had more out-of-state customers recently asking if they can pump their own gas, which suggests travelers have heard about the law.

"That's why I put up the sign," he said. "They have always been confused about the law in Oregon."

See more in Wednesday's issue of the Baker City Herald.

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