Nobody is surprised to hear that my first encounter with a Pay At The Pump system went badly, to the point of a furious attendant tearing my credit card out of my hands and telling me never to come back. I just didn’t get it. And where do I sign?
Two decades later I get it (and it took about that long), sufficiently wily even to avoid inadvertently buying a car wash when all I want is a receipt. But I still seem to run into glitches and failures at a higher rate than the average run of village idiot.
This week it’s a Chevron Station in Pembroke Pines on my way back to the office after lunch. I run the card through and wait. And wait. And wait. And then the screen says, System Failure See Attendant.
Of course, the beauty of Pay at the Pump is you don’t have to see the damn attendant or set foot in that sticky-floored hovel reeking of wet cardboard and burnt-coffee where you wait in line while obese Americans purchase delicious over-priced sugary non-food items to stuff in their craws, rot their teeth, and foul their arteries. So I’m pissed already when Manager Shirt tells me Yes the system is slow but — frowning at his Mr Computer Screen — it’s coming up now.
So I can pump now?
Nods. “The system is coming up now.”
I go back. The message is unchanged. I wait. The sun goes down and the World Series goes into a fifth game. I stomp back. Sonofabitch has the doors to the hovel locked. Other prospective gas pumping customers are milling around, perplexed. Finally, somebody already in the building wants to get out, unlocks the door. I push in.
I tell Manager Shirt his system is still down and I don’t have all day so he needs to run me a receipt with a zero balance to make sure the next poor wretch that actually succeeds some day at prying gas from that pump doesn’t get a free tank on my card.
“The system is working now,” he says, again staring at Mr Computer Screen.
I don’t give a candied damn. Run me my receipt so I can recontact my employer and loved ones before they file a Missing Person’s report.
Manager Shirt shrugs. “I can do that,” he says, and presses a few buttons, prints a receipt, and hands it to me.
I stalk to the car, put on my eyes to read the receipt, and see it’s for $25. Back for Round 3.
I display the receipt to Manager Shirt while I suggest he’s either a fool or a fraud: that’s somebody else’s receipt (in fact, it’s the one from the customer before me who actually got gas from that pump in the remote past), he’s not getting away with this, I need my receipt right fucking now.
He scowls at Mr Computer Screen while he plays with the keys. “Nothing is coming up,” he says. “It never went through. I can’t print what isn’t in the system.”
You thought you could a minute ago when you printed this one.
“It’s not in the system,” he says again. “There’s nothing to print.”
Horseshit. I might believe him before he pulls that maneuver with locking the fucking door. So I tell him Fine: no receipt, I’ll just contact both my credit card company and Chevron and let them know what’s going on here at Camp Petrophile. This strikes the customers in earshot as rather funny in an ominous way, but Manager Shirt merely shrugs. “Go ahead,” he says, defensively.
Which I do, of course, and learn that in fact the card did NOT go through. It wouldn’t have gone through until I punched in my zipcode at the very least, and the amount would only have been $1 until the actual charge was sent through a few days later. I can check back on the 800 number in a day or two to see if any illegitimate purchases were attempted, but the credit card company is confident there won’t be.
Aggravating, incompetent, poorly handled, but not criminal. I fill up at a Sunoco on my way home. $47.13.