With road travel expected to peak this Thanksgiving Day long weekend, I thought I would share with you some of the most common “Secret” Gas Pump and Gas Station marketing tricks to get you to spend more money. With gas prices reaching highs again, you don’t need to spend anything extra.
While none of these are scientific, they are collected from various people I’ve spoken to, or from my own thoughts while pumping gas.
The Slow Pump
This is a great marketing trick, but it is annoying for most gas station consumers. Have you every gone to the gas station, and felt like the pump was setting a world record for being slow? Well, chances are it was setup that way. Gas stations make most of their money inside at the convenience store, not through gas purchases. As a result, they are trying to get you to come inside and spend some money. And the longer you are going to wait for gas, the more likely you are to come inside and shop while you wait. Sneaky huh?
A second explanation, which may be more probable, but even more scary, is that the speed of the gas pump is determined by how clean the filter is built inside the pump. These are supposed to be changed regularly, but many gas stations don’t to save on costs. As a result, you could be getting some nasty gas…no pun intended.
While I doubt one or the other contributes entirely, I think there is some truth to both.
The Cash Discount
Did you know that gas stations are not legally allowed to charge a customer more for a credit card purchase than a cash purchase? However, merchants are allowed to offer a cash discount, and that is what many gas stations do. Many will list on their signs a great price on gas, but in small print, it will say “Cash Only Price”. Once you actually pull up to the pump, you will notice that there are really two prices, one for cash, and a more expensive one for credit users. I would venture a guess that 99.9% of people will just accept that amount and pump rather than get back into their cars and drive to another station. In the end, the gas station got you!
Make It Easy on Yourself
Make getting gas easy on yourself – go places where gas is not the primary way the company generates money and customers. Think about Costco. They offer gas to members as a service, not as a primary means of customer generation. As a result, their pumps are fast, they are not trying to up-sell, and you CAN’T even pay cash at Costco for gas. I’m not advocating Costco gas (although it is pretty cheap), but there are other places that do this as well, such as some grocery store chains or other retailers. These are some great ways on how to save money on gas.
Readers, what other secret marketing tricks have you seen, heard, or fell victim too?
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him here.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.