Dozens of New Jersey gas stations slashed prices Friday to protest the state’s self-service ban as skyrocketing fuel prices hit record highs before the start of the summer.
The reduced prices are intended to show motorists how much they could save at the pumps if the Garden State allowed people to pump their own gas, organizers said.
The ban — the only one of its kind in the nation — is viewed by critics as “stupid” or “embarrassing,” said Sal Risalvato of the New Jersey Gasoline-Convenience Store-Automotive Association.
“When my members run into customers from out of state, they are so used to refueling that they jump out of their cars to start refueling and we have to stop them,” Risalvato told The Post. “And they think it’s ridiculous.”
But the issue continues to reach a political impasse in a state where many traditionalists want to protect the perceived sanctity of full-service.
A bill called the Motorist Fueling Choice and Convenience Act is the latest effort to repeal the ban, but is considered a longshot to become law. Full-serv-only has become “a source of Jersey pride” but has meant the loss of potential savings for motorists, he said.
Self-service has been illegal in Jersey since 1949, when the Retail Gasoline Dispensing Safety Act came into effect with the aim of reducing fire hazards, limiting station liability insurance and minimizing customer exposure to toxic gases, especially in the case of pregnant women. Ladies.”
The law also said a self-service option would lead to higher full-service prices that would “discriminate against low-income individuals” who would be exposed to the dangers of pumping their own fuel.
Proponents of the long-standing ban argue that lifting it would have no tangible effect on gas prices and could lead to job losses at service stations. Risalvato disagrees, noting that many stations have already put orange cones in front of working gas pumps before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Those cones that block gas pumps — those are workers who don’t exist,” he said. “What we want to do is remove the orange cone and let you pump your gas.”
At an Exxon station near the entrance to the Holland Tunnel in Jersey City on Friday, about half of the station’s 22 pumps were blocked with cones and signs that read, “This pump would be open if NJ allows self-service.”
The station offered discounts of 15 cents, but was still full-service, with employees handing out coupons to customers that read, “Motorists would have $100-$400 annually if New Jersey allowed the self-service option.”
“I’d say 75 percent are open to it,” station manager Richard Fazaldin told The Post. “About 25 percent like things the way they are. They say, ‘I don’t want to pump it up myself after all these years.’ I explain, ‘No, no, no, ma’am. We always have full service. We are going to have full-service and self-service.”
New York City cab driver Phil Fleurant, 54, who was refueling his 17-gallon car, said the repeal of the ban would be a good idea because of the price savings and a potential tip to the employee.
“It’s nothing to give gas. Thank God I’m not handicapped,’ said Fleurant. “I can do it. I work five, six days a week. Those savings add up.”
Pediatric dentist Yasmi Crystal said she preferred full service.
“It’s almost embarrassing for me, but I’m a prima donna because I’d rather pay the money than have my hands smell like gas,” Crustal said. “But I’m very, very sensitive to people to whom the 15 cents means a lot.”
Dante Jones, a 30-year-old Jersey City resident, said he’d be happy to do the job himself if it saved money.
“Right now, with the high prices, any money being saved is great,” Jones said.
The effort comes as average gas prices in the state hit an all-time high of $4,502 per gallon of regular unleaded unleaded on Friday — a full 50 cents higher than a month earlier and well above the $3,057 average a year ago, according to AAA. The national average on Friday was $4,432, AAA said.
A Monmouth University poll in April found that two out of three New Jersey residents would pump their own gas if given the option, and 54% were in favor of self-service as long as full-service remains an option. According to the survey, only 21% of those polled believed that a change in the law would actually drive prices down.