Pump drive-offs

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

While the largest oil spill in history continues to foul the Gulf Coast, motorists across the U.S. are seeing prices at gas pumps go down or hold steady, a bonus for families gearing up for vacations that take them on our nation's highways.

But one cost for owners of filling stations and convenience stores is going up: drive-off thefts.

A drive-off theft occurs when a motorist pulls up to a gas pump, fills his vehicle's tank and leaves without paying. Last year the Cape Girardeau Police Department received 325 reports of gas pump drive-offs.

Some gas retailers are already requiring customers to use credit cards or prepay during certain hours of the night. Some convenience store owners say the only way to effectively deal with drive-offs is for all retailers to require prepayment all the time.

It's curious that some customers who drive off without paying do so because of inattention, not theft. They get so busy talking on their cell phones they forget to pay, store owners say.

Credit cards are used in a majority of fuel sales these days. Asking customers to pay by credit card or prepaying with cash doesn't seem so unreasonable -- not for honest customers, anyway.

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