To full-serve or to self-serve… that is the question

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Gas controversy divides community

By Aaron Guillen, Staff Reporter

In early July, Chevron Canada began the conversation around discontinuing full service in Coquitlam. In a recent committee meeting, Adrian Byrne, a Chevron representative, shared the gas company’s opinion on the matter, offering a modernization of an old bylaw that enforces that fuel must be pumped by a gas station employee. It should be noted that only Coquitlam and Richmond have held the bylaw since the early 1980s.

Locals have been vocal, sharing concerns, opinions, and strong convictions around what decision should be made. “I agree wholeheartedly that the city of Coquitlam should provide its residents with the choice of whether to pump their own gas,” offered Murdoch Coe, a Coquitlam resident, to Tri-City News.

“Most stations do not have adequate staff on duty to provide this service during the busy times of day, which can result in long lineups for gas. As a result, I usually make sure to fill up outside of Coquitlam to avoid this needless inconvenience. As far as I’m aware, other cities provide the option of full-serve gas for those who need it. As far as any jobs created by full-serve gas, I would suspect that they are low-paying, which is typical for services that most people simply don’t require. At the end of the day, why not provide both options and let the consumer decide which they prefer?”

Residents on the streets of Coquitlam nearby gas stations confirmed that this issue wasn’t a one-sided conversation.

Marleh Mangahas, a Coquitlam student, thought that full service was a fantastic opportunity for youth employment all the while ensuring her safety.

“I know it was a bit tough for me during my time when I was looking for a part-time job, since not a lot of places were hiring. And I wasn’t fond of working in a food service environment. [Additionally], having someone work at a gas station late at night would make me feel a bit safer too. Since I gas up at night most of the time, it’s pretty scary to be out there by myself in the dark. Having an employee there would give me a bit more sense of security.”

Sid Nyskott, a Coquitlam resident, was disappointed to hear that Chevron had asked to allow self-serve gas stations.

“I’m sensitive to the smell of gasoline and there’s no extra cost for the customer to receive full service and so I’m thankful,” Nyskott explained.

“It’s inconvenient for locals to find other gas stations to buy gas 24/7, but it was obviously Chevron doing its best to cut costs. The whole point of full-service is to ensure safety for employees and customers. For the small number of drivers needing gas after 10 p.m. would save the company extra employee hours. If this passes, the next thing will be self-service all day every day. I also think that it would be a waste to take an employment opportunity away from those who need it.”

While many individuals repeated common points in the pursuit of keeping full-service, others were eager for change.

Francis Grelly, a Port Coquitlam resident, eagerly shared his thoughts around the proposed change to the bylaw.

“We’re behind the times with our bylaws here. It’s time to get on board with the rest of the Lower Mainland and have self-service. I could potentially see full service during late nights, but during the day? It’s a position that doesn’t have any use. I think the real question is: why not [change the bylaw]?”

Rae, a Coquitlam senior, offered her own experiences with full service.

“Years ago, someone scratched my father’s truck while serving him gas. Though he was able to get it fixed, I’ve never had great customer service with gas pumpers. You won’t believe how many times my gas was pumped over what I’ve asked. Of course [full service] is a good job option to save money if you’re a student, but most people trust themselves with their own refill.”

While residents around the Coquitlam area have their own opinions, it boils down to the cooperation of city council with Chevron Canada. Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart briefly spoke with Tri-City News, commenting on the matter.

Stewart offered the idea of a split-island model, in which cities have both full-serve and self-serve options depending on the gas station. He additionally voiced his concerns for the elderly and disabled community and how the bylaw would affect them. He closed off by sharing his comfort with the potential for self-serve between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.