A Free-Market Energy Blog

Self-Service Takes Hold: 1950–70

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- May 28, 2015

“In the late 1960s, Mobil, Humble, Sun, Texaco, and Cities Service began self­-serve experiments. A reason behind the move to (capital-intensive) self-serve marketing by majors was the increasing cost of labor from the manpower drain of the Vietnam War and minimum wage and hour regulations.”

“More and more of these bans were being challenged; five had been rescinded in 1968, and maverick dealers were converting to self-serve in illegal states to dare a court suit. By 1970, it was just a matter of time before motorists had the self-serve option coast to coast.”

In the 1950s, independent marketers of privately branded gasoline effectively competed against high quality, well adver­tised major brands by offering lower prices and maintaining high-volume, low-cost operations. It was the independent that popularized the tracksider, self-service, multi-bay pumps, and, now, premiums.  

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Self-Service Erupts — and Established Dealers Go Political (1947–51)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- May 27, 2015

“Compared to established dealers, self-serves offered price discounts, high volume (self-serves were the first multi-pump stations), novelty, convenience (generally 24 hours), reduced wait (averaging 2 minutes per car), safety (automatic shut-off nozzles, enforced rules), attractive and spacious layout, and glamor (roving female cashiers).”

In 1930, as described in yesterday’s post, a new form of competition arose wherein the motorist got out of the vehicle to self-served and received a lower price for gasoline or diesel. Protest from established dealers, in alliance with local fire marshals, however, led to municipal ordinances to hamper self-serves.

A promising form of low-cost gasoline marketing, rivaling the discounts of tracksiders (stations selling discounted gasoline obtained directly from tank cars at railroad crossings) was postponed.

California … and the Nation

On May 1, 1947, a large self-service operation opened in California that received wide publicity and reawakened entrepreneurs to this particular form of discounting.

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Self-Service Gasoline: Legalizing Freedom (New Jersey, Oregon hold out)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- May 26, 2015

“For years, the lobby of small gas station owners worried they would be crushed by big oil companies, which then owned most stations, and could afford to install the modern pumps and canopies self-service demanded. ‘They would have been 10 or 15 cents a gallon less than mine, so they would have buried me,’ said Sal Risalvato, who opened a station in Paramus [New Jersey] in the late 1970s.”

– Kate Zernike , “Drop That Gas Nozzle: New Jersey Is Full-Service Island, and Likes It,” New York Times, May 23, 2015, A1.

Saturday’s New York Times front-page article, Drop That Gas Nozzle: New Jersey Is Full-Service Island, and Likes It, brought the peculiar politics of New Jersey’s ban on self-service gasoline/diesel to a national audience. Fines for self-pumping start at $50 and grow to $500 for repeat offenders.

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Memorial Weekend and Driving Season: Motor to a Better Environment!

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- May 22, 2015
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Climate Policy: Adaptation, Not Mitigation (Part 2, Examples)

By Terry Anderson and Donald Leal -- May 21, 2015
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Climate Policy: Adaptation, Not Mitigation (Part I, Theory)

By Terry Anderson and Donald Leal -- May 20, 2015
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“No Regrets” Climate Policy: Doing Much by Doing Little

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- May 19, 2015
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T. Boone Pickens: Still More from the ‘Man of System’

By -- May 18, 2015
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Seattle Hearing on Shell’s Arctic Rig Docking: A Clash of Visions

By Dave Harbour -- May 14, 2015
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Carbon Taxation: Remembering When Ken Green (AEI) Went from Aye to Nay

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- May 13, 2015
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