According to this article which appeared in ABC Newspapers, Coon Rapids’ ordinance mandating gas stations only allow prepay at the pump to eliminate drive-offs and thus reduce police calls went into effect on August 1st. Gas station owners strongly oppose the ordinance believing it will severely reduce their profits by increasing credit card fees and may even cause patrons to utilize stores outside the city’s borders due to convenience factors.
From the article:
Under the ordinance, which was adopted by a 5-2 vote of the Coon Rapids City Council Feb. 21 with an Aug. 1 start date, prepayment can include paying by credit card at the pump, or going inside and paying cash before the pump is turned on.
Police Chief Brad Wise, who initiated the prepay ordinance as a crime prevention tool to minimize the number of no-pay/gas drive offs from Coon Rapids retail fuel businesses – 492 in 2010 and 481 in 2011 – sent a letter to all gas station owner-operators in the city earlier this month to remind them of the impending ordinance start date and urging them to be in compliance.
While the new law has already reduced the number of drive-offs being reported, it’s not because many gas stations have implemented the required provisions of the ordinance in advance, according to the Chief of Police it’s because gas stations have simply stopped reporting the violations (42 have been reported in 2012 as opposed to 310 for the same timeframe last year). While the end result is exactly what the Chief of Police wanted when he proposed the ordinance, it is pretty clear that gas station owners are not exercising their rights as taxpaying businesses due to their reluctance to accept the ordinance.
However, the high fees associated with more mandated credit card transactions at the pump are the least of the concerns. There is also the inconvenience to the customer. I routinely pump first and pay inside so that the charge is immediately posted to my bank account rather than having to wait for the $1 authorization charge to clear and the real amount post. This makes it easier to track exactly how much was spent through online banking rather than having to keep track of receipts. However, some people really don’t know how much they plan to pump and then must go inside and prepay for an amount which won’t fill the tank or will need to make several trips into the stores to finalize the payment–something which can create slower moving lines and more work on the staff.
Overall this seems like an ordinance which may be good for public safety departments but it weighs heavily on gas station owners and adds an extra inconvenience for the thousands of good faith customers who don’t steal gas because ~500 people feel like shoplifting from gas stations.
While this ordinance wasn’t enacted in the South Metro, would you support if it were? How do you pay when you’re at a gas station? Do you authorize your transaction or do you like to go inside to pay afterward? Do you think that the number of calls for service in a city with a population in excess of 60,000 is something which needed to be controlled by ordinance possibly at additional expense of businesses who already pay taxes for police coverage? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.