November 25, 2016 — Approaching a population of 350 Million people in the USA, I’m guessing at least 85% of them are unaware there was an era that lasted generations when the driver of a car would pull into a gas station and normally be greeted by a male wearing a uniform that sometimes included a hat & tie. This person was usually paid the prevailing minimum hourly wage and often earned an additional SPIF for selling oil, lube jobs, windshield wipers, batteries, fan belts, tune-ups and more. Back then the attendant was known as a gas jockey and the customer didn’t have to purchase anything to get a whole bunch of free services.
So Here’s The Scoop: Drivers, for example, could roll into a “filling station”, as they were called back when self-service had not yet been conceived, and regardless of weather conditions the station attendant would rush out to the car with a smile on his face & cheerfully greet the driver saying: “Hi there Ma’am/Sir, what will it be today?”
The driver would respond (e.g.) “Yeah, could ya check the air pressure including the spare in my trunk and make sure they’re 30 lbs. all around? And then hit (wash) the windshield, and while you’re at it would ya pop the hood and check my oil, water, brake and transmission levels and see if any need topping off…”
All those services were performed quickly & free of charge! And when the car actually needed water for the radiator or air for the tires the water/air was also free as were very modest amounts of most fluids the vehicle may require.
Oh, and believe it or not between minimum wage and the extra bonuses (SPIFS) earned for selling ‘stuff’ if a gas jockey worked a 10-hour day 6 days a week he was able to fend for his family even if he was the only earner in the house.
And back in the mid 1960’s when gas was running around $.25 (cents) per gallon, when the driver requested “fill er up and/or top ‘er off”, depending on the gas tank size the cost was usually less than $3.00.
During that era there was also no shortage of major intersections in cities and at highway off-ramps with 2, 3 or 4 gas (service) stations standing at the ready to provide free services and hopefully sell stuff. But the competition was fierce so station owners/operators ran many promotions giving away all sorts of trinkets and gadgets just to get drivers to pull in to their stations.
Additionally, once a gas station mechanic had serviced a customer’s car a few times, if that driver lived in the neighborhood and stopped by each week for gas, etc. the station owner/manager also allowed many of their customers, with or without credit cards, credit checks, background investigations or drug testing to charge their auto repair needs, when required, including full tanks of gasoline each time.
During the pre-computer era, the station owner/manager would simply keep a paper-record of the charges (aka: on the books) and then around the (e.g.) first of each month when the customer once again rolled in she/he would say “Give me the once over Bob, fill ‘er up and let me pay last month’s damages.”
But the kicker is that with all the free services including the standard business overhead such as weekly payroll, monthly rent/lease/mortgage payments, insurance, taxes, electricity/utilities and maintenance costs for the entire station, the oil companies and the gas stations that were either independently owned or controlled and operated by the oil companies were, for the most part, attractively profitable.
As were, by the way, the transportation companies delivering the gas to the station, the individual manufactures and the vendors of all the other products delivered to and sold at the service stations and as I’ve mentioned the gas jockey was doing okay as well!
And what is the moral to this memory lane story?
With Thanksgiving now behind us and the rest of the Holidays at our doors while gorging myself into an early nap after feasting on an incredible T-Day spread lovingly prepared by my better half I quickly found myself, just before I dozed off, pondering that long-gone era and that very simple question.
I concluded, in part, the moral is that as a nation and a people whereby the majority of us have a whole bunch to be grateful for we sure could be a tad more friendly, show more respect and be a little more gracious to others including giving a little more to those in need; and in business, we should also provide a little more genuine service to our customers like Bob and all the other gas jockeys did back in the day.
In the Land of Time, from the developer, management, admin to marketing and sales etc. – if we did as well at performing our jobs as Bob did we’d all be in a much better place during the incredibly short span of our lives.
Have a very Merry Christmas and a safe, healthy and happy holiday season.
Good Luck Out There
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