For the past year-and-a-half, Bowling Green, Ky., residents haven't been able to purchase gas without first paying for it. Last year, the City Commission enforced an ordinance making every self-serve pump in the city pre-pay. However, There are other places in our area without pre-pay laws.
With gas prices rising over the past few months, some of these area gas stations are becoming the victims of drive-offs. Traveler's Food Plaza owner, Bill Wininger, said pump-and-runs are nothing new at his gas station, but he said they are becoming more frequent.
"Yes, we've seen an increase in the number of drive-offs as the price has gone up," Wininger said.
He also said its usually the same thing every time.
"They will make a quick exit from the driveway, leaving rubber burning from the tires so that we don't get their license number and call the police on them," he said.
Wininger then said he knows that some of the drive-offs are done intentionally to avoid paying high gas prices. Still, he believes some of them boil down to customers not realizing they haven't completed their purchase.
Credit card users sometimes fail to finish the transaction by hitting a few buttons after they finish pumping their gas. He said sometimes customers will realize their mistake and come back.
"Once in a while, we'll have a customer come back and say, 'Oh, I drove off and forgot to pay.' But that's a rarity," Wininger said.
Although the drive-offs cost his business money, Wininger isn't sold on the idea of going pre-pay.
"We pay a pretty healthy fee on credit card usage. We're afraid if we had a pre-pay system it would increase our credit card costs," he said.
As gas prices continue to climb, Wininger said he expects more of the same.
"Oh yeah, as the prices go up and you're going to see more drive-offs and it may come to the point where we have to use a pre-pay system," Wininger said.
According to the Association for Convenience and Petroleum Retailing, national gas theft cost the gas industry $300 million in 2005.