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The Cast in this sordid tale
By Justin W. Price
I had this new fuel additive, which meant I needed to put some gas in the car. I pulled into the Shell station across from my apartment. It was always a touch more expensive than the other stations, but its convenient and I frequent it for top offs. I was having somewhat of a cash flow problem so I was only going to get five dollars.
“Hey Bobby” I said to the gimpy gas station attendant. There was something wrong with Bobby, but not sure what. His left leg was slightly longer than his right and he didn’t seem to possess much in the way of brains. He had this distant way of staring at you and tended to tell you things about his penis or his social life that didn’t seem altogether necessary to the job of pumping gas. He was young; maybe twenty one or two with dark hair and a scraggly goatee. Nice kid, fairly attentive.
“I’ll need five, no receipt.” This is what I usually got. I didn’t fill up there. In addition to the higher prices, there were no rewards. I put in the fuel additive, handed my card to Bobby and repeated my desire for five dollars’ worth of gas.
“Five dollars, no receipt,” Bobby said as he inserted the card into the pump.
I went into the store to buy sunflower seeds. I came out and drove off. I got a quarter mile up the road and noticed a full tank of gas. I only had a quarter tank when I stopped at the shell and knew five dollars—at least not at 2012 prices—would not fill up the car. I turned around and went back and drove up to the same pump and saw that over thirty-seven dollars in fuel had been pumped!
Certainly, I had the fuel in my car and would be more than willing to pay for it, had I asked for a fill up. I hadn’t and we didn’t. “Bobby, I asked for five dollars!”
“I thought you said five gallons?”
“Even if I did, there’s over ten gallons showing on the meter. I said five dollars. I can’t cover thirty-seven!”
Bobby punched the pump he was working at and cursed. “Not again. That’s the third time this week!”
“No need to get upset, man. You made an honest mistake. No need to worry about it I don’t wanna get you fired or anything. I’ll just go inside and explain the situation.” Several years prior, I handed a gas station attendant $10 cash and he proceeded to fill up my car. When I noticed the meter pumping well past ten, I leapt from my seat and told the attendant to stop the pump. He did, but it took him awhile and I ended up with a full tank. I went inside and spoke to the cashier, told him what happened and, since I had the cash on me, I split the difference with him. The hazard of not being allowed to pump your own gas in the state of Oregon is that this kind of stuff does happen on occasion.
I expected a similar recompense in this case. Perhaps that was my folly.
I explained the situation to the cashier inside. I told him I couldn’t cover that dollar amount and if I could I’d be happy to pay for at least some of it. Certainly the mistake was theirs but I also did have the gasoline in my car. Bobby came in, nervous and agitated and explained his case to the cashier. Bobby left saying “This is why I hate working Fridays.”
The cashier stated the obvious: “He’s not the brightest tool in the shed.”
The owner was called and spoke to the cashier and then to Bobby. Bobby insisted he repeated “fill ‘er up” three times before pumping. He didn’t. Bobby also failed to inform his boss what he told me, about the frequency of him making the same mistake He didn’t mention my frequent patronage, or my ruddy handsomeness. Understandably, Bobby’s goal was self-preservation. And, in this economy, who could blame him? At the conclusion of that call I was informed by the cashier that the owner was siding with the employee and there would be no refund.
My fists clenched, my lips pursed and I began to pace. I was essentially being called a liar. Moreover, I had never heard of a company putting the needs of an employee ahead of those of a customer, especially when that employee admittedly has had similar issues in the recent past.
“You mean to tell me I’ve been getting gas here for a year, spent hundreds of dollars, and I chose today to run some kind of scam to get free gas?” I seethed. I’ve been known to return to stores with excess change that was given to me, or to return a bag of fast food that contained French fries I did not order nor was charged for, and now I’m being questioned about a gas purchase? I understand, it’s an easy system to scam, and the gas would certainly be utilized, but I really didn’t have the funds to cover that much gasoline. More importantly, my integrity was under attack. It’s really all I have to barter with in these times of economic woe and want.
“No one’s calling you a liar.”
“Not directly, no.”
“I’ve only been here a month. I can’t override the owner, but you can talk to him when he’s here tomorrow.”
“What good will that do? He chooses to believe an employee who doesn’t know his ass from his elbow. You yourself said he wasn’t smart.”
“I don’t know what to tell you.”
“Well, when that charge comes back, you won’t get paid, and neither will I. No one wins in this situation. And I’ll never come here again.” I got in my car and drove off. My instinct was to flip Bobby the bird or say something snarky to him, but I didn’t. He’s a simpleton and, and I suspected his owner would likely fire him for a mistake like the one he made if he had sided with me instead of him. I let it go, but I won’t go back.