Taking the “service” out of “service station”

By | September 7, 2009

For the past week or two, we’ve been having a problem with a slow leak in one of our tires.  Well, at least, it was a slow leak until this weekend, when it turned into a fast leak, and we’re going to have to get it fixed tomorrow.  In the meantime, we’ve stopped at a number of service stations to top up the air; we have a little electric pump that plugs into a lighter jack, but it’s a lot slower than service-station pumps.  It’s simply astounding how many service stations don’t have working air.  It is, in fact, sufficiently astounding that a little shaming of the guilty is in order…

Market Street Gulf, at 195 North Beacon Street in Brighton, has a big “free air” sign, but doesn’t actually have air available.  “We turned it off because the gauge is broken,” explained the technician after I spent several minutes trying to figure out where it was, and another several minutes trying to locate the technician, who was nowhere to be found (apparently, he went out for coffee) despite the “trained technician on duty” sign.  From what I could see, it had been quite a while since air was available at this station.  Either fix the gauge or take down the sign, idiots!

Newton Center Gulf, at 732 Beacon Street in Newton, also has a big “free air” sign.  Only after you’ve taken the time to pull into the service station and back your car up to the air pump do you notice the small, hand-written “out of order” sign taped to it.

Allson Car Wash, a Mobil station at 434 Cambridge Street in Allston, has a fancy high-tech air pump — you set the tire pressure you want and it automatically fills the tire to the specified pressure.  Well, at least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.  I checked the pressure today with my own gauge, a few days after topping up all four tires at Allston Car Wash, and the three that aren’t leaking were all around ten pounds higher than the pressure I keyed into the air pump. It’s both dangerous and bad for the tires to over-inflate them, so this is completely unacceptable.

Here’s a clue to service station managers everywhere: a working pump that costs a few quarters is a lot better than a broken pump that’s free, and a low-tech pump with an accurate, low-tech pressure gauge is a lot better than a high-tech pump which damages your tires and makes your car unsafe to drive.

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