Gas skips force station to change pre-pay policy |

Gas skips force station to change pre-pay policy

Andy Hanna, owner of the Conoco in Fraser, is tired of losing thousands of dollars to drive-offs at the pump.

So Hanna turned his gas station into a pre-pay service this week. Customers who pay cash must go inside the gas station and pay first before filling up. Card users ” debit and credit ” can still pay outside, but their card will only work once it’s authorized by its financial institution.

“We don’t want to tick off the locals but … it’s tough on my employees to look outside all the time. It’s stressful. And we can’t afford to lose anymore (money),” Hanna said.

Hanna estimates his gas station loses $4,000 to $5,000 a year in drive-offs. With a gas station on the main highway, a greater influx of tourists, and the rising cost of gas, he needed to take another look at how he does business.

The owner of Conoco for 16 years, Hanna has always catered to the customer, he said, by allowing them to get gas before paying; now, he’s asking the customer to cater to him.

“I don’t like to be the bad guy here, but we have to look at our pockets now.”

Andria Elder, who is the manager of the Conoco in Winter Park, said she has also seen an increase in drive-offs. She had three drive-offs in the last few weeks, which is more than usual this time of year, she said. Her gas station allows drivers to pump before they pay.

Elder estimates the store loses roughly $200 a month. She has asked corporate to consider doing pre-pay, she said, and is waiting for a response ” especially since the stolen money comes out of her paycheck.

She also feels frustrated by the local police department.

“I’ve called them probably five or six times, and only once they (caught the guy) and got my money,” Elder said.

Hanna pointed out that one of the reasons he went to pre-pay is because of the Fraser/Winter Park Police Department said it wasn’t their job anymore to go after gas thieves.

But that is not the case, according to Police Officer Dave Maurey.

“We still investigate any good gas theft drive-offs,” Maurey said.

What the police department isn’t doing anymore is going after people who didn’t pay due to a technical or mechanical malfunction, such as the gas pump didn’t read their credit card correctly, he explained, which is often the case with the local gas stations that don’t offer pre-pay.

The Conoco in Fraser, for example, used to allow drivers to slide their credit or debit card at the pump, fill up the tank and leave, without realizing their credit card didn’t go through. A sign on the pumps advised drivers that if a receipt isn’t printed, their transaction didn’t register. But many drivers ignored the sign.

Officers received numerous calls from local gas stations for thefts that weren’t really gas thefts, Maurey said.

“We were using considerable resources. And it was simply the machines that weren’t reading them. That’s really a civil situation. It’s beyond our responsibility.”

Maurey added that the Fraser Valley was one of the few areas that still offered gas service before payment.

“I think you’d be hard-pressed to find those kind of gas stations anymore,” he said, suggesting that most gas stations in the U.S. are now pre-pay only. Not only does that offer more protection for gas stations, it ensures that driver’s credit and debit cards are legit, Maurey pointed out, before the driver can pump gas.

When a gas station is pre-pay, the card is run through by its financial institution ” instead of just the gas station ” before it is authorized.

The reason why local gas stations don’t offer pre-pay is because they are catering to the locals, who find it more convenient to pump gas and pay afterwards. But times are changing; as tourism increases throughout Grand County, more drivers passing through are looking for a free ride.

But as far as gas thefts go, the police department will still pursue thefts that are intentional, Maurey added.

“Anything that’s an actual gas theft, where someone deliberately drove off with the intent not to pay, we will investigate that.”

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