Tipping at Gas Stations
December 13, 2004 6:51 AM   Subscribe

I have an etiquette question: I moved to the Boston area about a year ago from Oakland California. I've never seen a full service gas station in CA (I've seen them before, just not in CA). Here in MA, most of the gas stations are full serve, which rules in the winter.

My question is this: is it appropriate and/or expected that I tip the attendant that fills up my gas tank?
posted by jaded to Work & Money (26 answers total)
No, oddly enough, there is no tipping at full-service stations, at least not to my knowledge. I'm from MA as well.
posted by Embryo at 6:57 AM on December 13, 2004

I live in MA as well, and I think the answer is this:

If the station is ONLY full service, tipping is not required, but might be a nice gesture, esp. during the holiday season.

If the station is full service OPTIONAL, check the prices. If you pay more for full service no tip. If you pay the same as self serve, it might be nice to tip, but I don't think it's required.

At least in RI where I grew up (I live inland in MA right now) stations a certain footage from a water source had to be full service (to minimize accidental contamination I assume.) At those stations tips were never required but they were appreciated.

Hope that helps. I of course defer to any former or current full time gas station attendants. :^)
posted by absquatulate at 6:59 AM on December 13, 2004

I don't know MA but in Jersey all the stations are full service (it's the law) and I've never heard of anyone tipping an attendent. Most transactions now are via card anyway and there's no way to add a tip to the charge like in a resturant or hair cutter.

I do have to say that after many years in PA, I get weirded out by having to let someone else pump my gas when I visit NJ. I usually forget and jump out of my car and then feel like a dork when I remember.
posted by octothorpe at 7:04 AM on December 13, 2004

I've never heard of tipping an attendant here in MI. If you pull up to a full-service island, you pay more for the gas.
posted by pmurray63 at 7:17 AM on December 13, 2004

I second absquatulate. Check the prices before you tip if there's an option between Full and Self service. The full service stuff tends to be mainly on the major highways and such, where they want to move you along to let the next guy in.

Beyond that, if they do something extra like wash your windows, a small tip may be in order.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:19 AM on December 13, 2004

Here is a good article on tipping etiquette.

Aside from agreeing with everyone else (no tip), it raises a good point. Full serve used to mean they cleaned your windshield and checked your fluids. Oh well.
posted by sdrawkcab at 7:20 AM on December 13, 2004

I live in NJ, and people rarely, if ever, tip the attendants. I try to tip if I'm traveling on holidays, and once in a while if the weather is really awful I'll tip just to make the attendant's day a little better.
posted by willpie at 7:21 AM on December 13, 2004

Also relatively new to MA (from WA) - I can never tell if a station is full-serve or self-serve when I drive up, I usually get startled by somebody hustling over to the car, as they look at me like "why are you getting out?" I haven't seen anyone else tip (andf I've been watching).

My biggest self-serve Gas Station issue - they file off or remove the catch on all nozzles, so you cannot walk away from the car while fueling. What a pain.
posted by kokogiak at 7:24 AM on December 13, 2004

Yes! I'm also a WA-MA transplant and curse the lack of a catch on the pump handles everytime. Someone once mentioned it was for a reason but couldn't give me a good one.
posted by rschroed at 7:36 AM on December 13, 2004

they file off or remove the catch on all nozzles, so you cannot walk away from the car while fueling. What a pain.

Stick the gas cap under the lever, wedged between it and the finger-guard. Works like a charm.
posted by ChasFile at 7:38 AM on December 13, 2004

"Full service" is the law in Oregon, and I've never heard of or seen anyone tipping.
posted by majick at 7:41 AM on December 13, 2004

Back when "full service" meant cleaning your windshield, checking your oil and the pump jockeys wore uniforms, I remember my parents tipping a few bucks at Christmas at their regular gas station.

Now, it wouldn't occur to me, unless some extraordinary service was performed.
posted by QIbHom at 8:09 AM on December 13, 2004

Just last week I tipped an attendant at a full-serve only station in Seabrook, NH (right on the Mass. border). I rarely get full-serve, so I thought I'd tip. I think the attendant thought I was propositioning him, obviously not often tipped. The full-serve price was the same as neighboring self-serve stations.
posted by anathema at 8:47 AM on December 13, 2004

they file off or remove the catch on all nozzles, so you cannot walk away from the car while fueling. What a pain.

Generally due to fire regulations - in MA the rules seem to be at a municipal level.

(and no - I've never tipped someone for pumping gas)
posted by jalexei at 8:50 AM on December 13, 2004

The catches are removed due to fire regulations. If you have to hold the handle, you won't go back into your (nice and warm in the winter) car, build up static electricity, and then go back out to pull the handle out, risking an electric arc which could set off the fumes. It's an unlikely, yet possible chain of events. (It has happened)

I live in Ontario (Canada), where it really sucks in the winter to stand there and hold the friggin handle.

Wedging the gas cap in the handle is a possibility, but if you wedge it tight enough, you can override the auto-shutoff, potentially spilling gas over your car and the ground. This is bad.
posted by defcom1 at 8:55 AM on December 13, 2004

I live in MA and while there are more full-serve stations here than in other places, I don't find it at all difficult to find plenty of self-serve gas stations. I only use full-serve when it cannot be avoided, and I would never tip (nor is it expected).
posted by briank at 9:47 AM on December 13, 2004

I worked in a service station one summer many years ago. About once or twice a week someone would give me a tip (usually about $1). I am now in NJ where all the stations are full serve. I tip occasionally - usually for really good service.
posted by caddis at 10:40 AM on December 13, 2004

I'm in MA, and I almost always tip full service gas station attendants a buck. Always during the holiday season. It may not be rude to not tip, but it is always appreciated. But I try to use self-serve unless it is 15 degrees out.
(And btw, ChasFile's tip is illegal in MA and prone to spilling gas.)
posted by McGuillicuddy at 10:48 AM on December 13, 2004

In OR I don't normally tip a gas station attendant, but I have in the past. See, Oregon is nice because we don't have to pump our own gasoline. When the attendant washes my windows for me, I say "thanks" and hand them an extra dollar.
posted by Keyser Soze at 11:00 AM on December 13, 2004

Anyone in the New York metro area have a different experience than the vast majority of people here? I thought tipping for full service in cold months was expected. When paying with cash, I'll ask for a dollar less back, and I feel odd when I pay by credit card and don't have a $1 in my wallet to give the attendent when he gets back with the thinger for me to sign.

Maybe I'm being way too generous.
posted by owenville at 12:21 PM on December 13, 2004

"Full service" is the law in Oregon

I've never been to a full service gas station in my life. Can some one explain to me why it is illegal for me to pump my own gas in some states?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 1:26 PM on December 13, 2004

Ostensibly it is for safety, but I think it stays for the convenience. Once you allow pumping it yourself all stations convert and full service becomes an expensive luxury. I love having my gas pumped for me and our gas costs are usually still below the national average.
posted by caddis at 2:04 PM on December 13, 2004

I think the Oregon law was also originally intended to create more jobs for unskilled workers. There have been several attempts to overturn it in the past, but yeah, people have gotten used to hiding out in their nice dry cars...

I'm almost certain that Oregon's gas prices are generally above the national average, but that's probably due to more than the full-service law; gas prices in New Jersey (the only other state with such a law) are significantly below the average.
posted by introcosm at 2:12 PM on December 13, 2004

I'm from Bloomington, Indiana, and there is only one gas station in town that has full service, and I usually tip him a buck. I've never been to the east coast. Once, on a road trip to Western Canada, I just about ran out of gas in North Dakota (tip: start looking for places to fill up at 1/2 a tank, seriously) and tipped a guy three bucks. The gas at the full service station in town is significantly cheaper than anywhere else in town. I'm vaguely suspicious of it, and rarely go there, although my girlfriend calls me silly for it.
posted by cohappy at 4:26 PM on December 13, 2004

Full service was the law in my hometown (Weymouth, MA), and yet I always tip when I go home to visit and find myself needing to fill up before I can get out of town. Maybe it's because I grew up watching my parents tip. Like owenville, I feel strange when I pay by cc and don't have an extra buck on hand for the attendant.
posted by damn yankee at 4:41 PM on December 13, 2004

they file off or remove the catch on all nozzles, so you cannot walk away from the car while fueling. What a pain.

Stick the gas cap under the lever, wedged between it and the finger-guard. Works like a charm.

This is illegal in most (or all) of MA. There's probably signs posted about not doing it.

Also, I think self-service stations are the majority in MA, at least the parts I lived in. I wouldn't tip much or at all, especially after comparing the full-service/self-service prices (you can often find them across the street from each other). Full service is usually quite a bit more expensive (at least 1-2 dollars, as I recall), and definitely not worth it.
posted by advil at 6:00 PM on December 13, 2004

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