So I get into town and am low on gas, and as usual I make my first stop at BJ’s for gas. It’s a little out of the way, but often 10 cents or more cheaper. (Actually, I was going to forgo the savings, it being the afternoon before Labor Day weekend and sure the place would be jammed, but a 16-cent price difference made me go the extra quarter-mile.)
So as always when I get there on any busy day, there are cars waiting for the right-hand slots (driver’s side fill) and only the lucky people who have passenger-side fill or are willing to drag the hose across their car filling up on the lefthand slots. The lines are long but it’s right on the balance of making it worth waiting.
Until I get to the pump and remember again why I try to avoid buying gas at BJ’s: deadly, deadly slow pumps. The third decimal place on the amount is never unreadable and the first decimal ticks over about every two seconds… let me see, that would be 360 seconds for the 18 gallons I bought, just about right. That’s the truth, folks: 5 minutes or more to pump 18 gallons. That’s at least twice as slow as any other pump I use regularly.
My question is: why?
I get that self-serve pumps often run slowly to keep inept drivers from puking fuel all over the ground (I’ve used full-serve pumps at full speed and it’s a HELL of a lot faster… and easier to spill, even these days.) But if every other self-serve around can run at, say, 10 gallons a minute, why does BJ’s think 4 gpm is a great speed?
I could further speculate that BJ’s gets particularly inept drivers, ones who rarely buy their own fuel until there is a huge price spike or differential and then go to the very cheapest source they can find, and are the ones who fumble with everything and spill some fuel even with all the safeguards. But that can’t be it, all the time.
I wonder… if BJ’s doesn’t really want to sell gas. If having the gas station is a come-on and a service to attract members, but set to deflect sales with long lines, slow waits and very slow filling. If they only sell, say, 2/3 of the gas they could sell with more efficient service and over the long run sell maybe 1/2 of what a satisfied customer base would buy, the small margin on gas wouldn’t hurt their bottom line. Better to sell very little product near cost than a lot of it, even with the overhead.
Unless someone else has an idea why every BJ’s runs their pumps somewhere around one-third to one-half speed?