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franklin county times

Gas drive-offs changing the way stations work

By Staff
Jonathan Willis
With rising gas costs affecting everything that consumers do, local gas companies have been looking at another problem – gas drive-offs.
A growing number of customers pull up to the tank, fill their vehicle with gas and then drive away without paying.
Local law enforcement officials said they were worried the number of drive-offs would drastically increase as fuel prices rose, but Russellville Police Chief Chris Hargett said that has not been the case.
"The number of drive-off calls hasn't gone up as much as we had thought, but a lot of that is because stations are doing things themselves to take care of it," he said.
To avoid drive-offs, more and more gas stations across the area are going pre-pay only.
Sibley Oil Co. and Webb Oil Co. both said all of their stations have gone to a pre-pay only format.
"(Drive-offs) were getting out of control and causing us too much of a loss," said James Webb, vice-president of Webb Oil.
The pre-pay only system has worked for the most part, but Sibley Oil Co. president Jim Sibley said it is still not a perfect fix.
Sibley said the problem comes in when clerks let people they know go ahead and pump their gas without pre-paying.
"It is just human nature that it becomes habit to let everyone do that," he said. "I am working on putting audio systems in so employees can talk with the customers and explain to them that they have to pay, rather than just leaving the customer standing there."
Sibley said that gas prices have gotten so high that one drive-off could take away his entire profit margin for that day.
"A drive-off now could cost us $100," he said.