Printers Row Publishing Group:


Mysteries of the Gas Station: Solved!

November 1, 2013

The answers to those things you think about while you wait for your tank to fill up.

Why are gas prices listed with a “9/10” afterward?

3d render of gas stationBecause they make more money that way. The price for a gallon of gas listed, $3.49 9/10, is rounded up to the next penny. But most customers don’t pay any attention to that fraction, focusing instead on the standard three-digit price, falling for a classic psychological trick that makes customers think they’re paying slightly less for something than they really are. It’s the same psychology behind why things that cost 99 cents “feel” so much cheaper than something that costs $1.

The fractional pricing practice began during the Great Depression. To save money, people were driving less, and the demand for gasoline. Gas station chains introduced premiums to attract customers, such as free glasses, candy, and ashtrays, for example. Another way a gas station could differentiate itself from the competition: lower prices. Undercutting the other guy by even a fraction of a cent was enough to lure customers. The 9/10th became permanent in the 1970s. During that decade’s oil crisis and subsequent gas shortage, the federal government stepped in to regulate gas prices, setting them with elaborate but precise formulas, which often ended in 9/10ths. The idea simply became a part of American life after that.

What’s the difference between full service and mini service?

Full servicee involves a gas station attendant, who comes out to your car, asks how much gas you want, takes your money, and pumps it for you. They may also offer minor services, like cleaning off your windshield or checking your oil levels (but you may have to ask). Mini-service is just another name for “self serve”—you pump your own. Usually, because of the extra labor involved, full service costs a bit more per gallon. Two states, however, have no real difference between full service and mini service: In Oregon and New Jersey, it’s illegal for gas station customers to pump their own gas.

Follow by Email

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
November 1, 2013 3:40 pm

Gas stations that provide full service have far fewer fires at the pumps.

Subscribe to our Mailing List