Listen to CFAX Phone Call

There is a heated debate going on regarding the new pay before you pump policy in British Columbia. This law, referred to as Grant’s Law in reference to a gas station attendant who was killed in a gas and dash, requires by March 1st that every gas station in B.C forces drivers to pay before they pump gas.

In listening to CFAX and reading the letters written into the Times Columnist, I’ve noticed that the points being debated are incorrect. It’s not about whether gas stations should be prepaid or not, it’s about what role the government has in the market place.

It’s quite clear that some gas stations should be prepaid and some shouldn’t depending on the neighborhood and cliental they service. For instance, I spoke with the attendant at the local COOP and they expressed to me how illogical the law was for them. They are located within a neighborhood where theft isn’t a big issue, they’re full service and aren’t open all hours of the night. There is no reason why customers should be prepaying at this gas station. Then again, when I used to live in Vancouver, I remember a few gas stations I went to that if I owned, I’d be getting the money up front.

The real question is how large of a role should the government have in the market place. Grant’s Law represents a big step in regulation of the business/customer relationship. Should all restaurants be prepay as well? What about in dealing with contractors, should government force people entering contracts to pay in full up front? Should haircuts be prepay? What about any other goods or services we receive before payment is made?

The answer to all these questions is a solid, resounding NO.

This problem is effectively solved in the free market with the decision of whether to prepay or not left up to gas station owners. If an owner of a gas station has a problem with gas and dashers guess what he’s going to do, put a pre pay system in during the effected hours!

The most common argument in favor of this invasion into the business/customer relationship is one of safety. A part of this law address this, as it requires that attendants working alone after 10pm are behind a locked barrier. I can see the safety argument there, whether or not it’s appropriate is another matter. I don’t see how pre paying makes gas attendants safer. A gas and dash consists of someone filling up their tank and driving away, which all happens while the attendant is inside. A gas attendant has no business trying to stop this criminal act and is not being paid to do so. Their job is to simply pick up the phone and call the police. Although anything they do above and beyond that is noble, it is done under their own free will.

Grants Law, along with the CRD Outdoor Smoking Ban (to see article discussing CRD Outdoor smoking ban click here), represent a growing government trend to get more involved in the business/customer relationship. This 1 size fits all approach hurts more people than it helps and ultimately isn’t a good way to govern.