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Fill'er Up: A Study of Statewide Self-Service Gasoline Station Bans

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Abstract

Can banning self-service at gas stations produce social and economic benefits without raising the price of gasoline? Here's an interesting analysis that suggests that the ban on self-service in Oregon and New Jersey makes good sense.
Fill ’er Up
Challenge/September–October 2007 103
Challenge, vol. 50, no. 5, September/October 2007, pp. 103–114.
© 2007 M.E. Sharpe, Inc. All rights reserved.
ISSN 0577–5132 / 2007 $9.50 + 0.00.
DOI: 10.2753/0577–5132500507
Fill ’er Up
A Study of Statewide
Self-Service Gasoline Station Bans
Robert Scott III
Can banning self-service at gas stations produce
social and economic benefits without raising the
price of gasoline? Here’s an interesting analysis that
suggests that the ban on self-ser vice in Oregon and
New Jersey makes good sense.
NEW JERSEY AND OREGON are this country’s only states that still
ban self-service gasoline stations. In these states, it is illegal
for anyone other than a licensed gasoline station attendant
to pump gasoline. Both states have maintained their laws for nearly
sixty years. Since their enactment, laws banning self-service at gas sta-
tions have undergone scrutiny in both states. The pressure to adopt
self-service stations typically comes from politicians who want to
increase public support by reversing the bans because they believe
this action will reduce gasoline prices for consumers. But the public
regularly resists attempts to overturn the self-service bans in New
Jersey and Oregon. A few reasons the public strongly supports state-
wide self-service bans are that they (a) provide a valuable service for
disabled and elderly citizens, (b) help ensure environmental safety,
and (c) create thousands of jobs, all of which come at a negligible cost
to consumers. This paper studies the social advantages and economic
effects of statewide bans.
ROBERT SCOTT III is assistant professor of economics and finance at Monmouth University.
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104 Challenge/September–October 2007
History of Self-Service Bans
The first gasoline station was built in 1905 in St. Louis, Missouri, by
the Automobile Gasoline Company (Jakle and Sculle 1994). Before
Henry Ford perfected his assembly line to produce cars at a reasonable
price in 1908, their ownership was relegated to wealthy technophiles
(ibid.). Gasoline at this time was purchased by the bucketful at the
local general store. Over time, gasoline stations became more sophis-
ticated by the installation of underground storage tanks and pumps,
making fuel dispensing safer and more convenient.
The majority of stations in the country, about 70 percent, were
full-service gasoline stations until the early 1980s. Johnson and Ro-
meo (2000) state, “In 1968, only 27 states allowed the self-service
dispensing of gasoline, and some of those required that attendants
be standing by.” By the late 1970s, all states except New Jersey and
Oregon had overturned their self-service bans. Other than in those
two states, few full-service stations remain, and those still operating
often charge a premium for their services. According to the latest
gasoline station count survey by National Petroleum News (“U.S. An-
nual Station Court” 2006) of the nearly 170,000 gasoline stations in
the United States, only 2,166 (1.3 percent) offer a full-service option
(excluding New Jersey and Oregon). Because few full-service stations
are available, the disabled and the elderly find it much more difficult
and expensive to obtain gasoline.
New Jersey’s self-service gasoline station ban was passed in 1949, and
Oregon’s in 1951 (NJSA §§34:3A-1 to 34:3A-3 and ORS §§480.310 to
480.340, respectively). These laws make it illegal for people to pump
their own gasoline unless they have a special license. An exception is
made for motorcyclists (who are handed the pump by an attendant)
and truck drivers. After the self-service bans were passed, gasoline sta-
tions had to hire and train attendants to handle their pumps, which
created many jobs for low-skilled workers. Today an estimated 14,000
jobs exist in New Jersey because of their self-service ban, and 8,000
jobs in Oregon (22,000 jobs total).1
Full-service gasoline station laws were first enacted because of safety
concerns. Pumping gasoline was more dangerous when pumps had few
Fill ’er Up
Challenge/September–October 2007 105
fail-safes. New Jersey and Oregon have maintained their self-service bans
not only out of concern for safety but also because of numerous other
advantages from bans, such as job creation, environmental protection,
and convenience. The primary reasons New Jersey and Oregon maintain
their bans on self-service stations are clearly outlined in their state leg-
islation. New Jersey’s permanent statute states the following reasons:2
1. Because of the fire hazards directly associated with dispensing
fuel, it is in the public interest that gasoline station operators
have the control needed over that activity to ensure compliance
with appropriate safety procedures;
2. When customers, rather than attendants, are permitted to dis-
pense fuel, it is far more difficult to enforce compliance with
safety measures;
3. The higher general liability insurance premium rates charged
to self-service stations reflect the fact that customers who leave
their vehicles to dispense gasoline or other inflammable liquids
face significant inconveniences and dangers, including the risks
of crime and fall-related personal injury, which are a special
burden to drivers with physical infirmities, such as the handi-
capped and some senior citizens;
4. Exposure to toxic gasoline fumes represents a health hazard
when customers dispense their own gasoline, particularly in
the case of pregnant women;
5. The significantly higher prices usually charged for full-service
gasoline in states where self-service is permitted result in dis-
crimination against low income individuals, who are under
greater economic pressure to undergo the inconvenience and
hazards of dispensing their own gasoline; and
6. The prohibition of customer self-service does not constitute a
restraint of trade in derogation of the general public interest
because the Legislature finds no conclusive evidence that self-
service gasoline provides a sustained reduction in gasoline prices
charged to customers. (NJSA §§34:3A-1 to 34:3A-3)
Anyone who pumps gasoline without a license issued by the state
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106 Challenge/September–October 2007
Fire Marshal’s Office is subject to penalty. According to a New Jersey
permanent statute under Title 34:
No person shall dispense fuel at a gasoline station, unless the person
is an attendant who has received instructions regarding the dispens-
ing of fuel, had practical experience dispensing fuel under the direct
supervision of an experienced operator for a period of not less than
one full working day, and, upon examination at the end of that period,
demonstrated his understanding of those instructions. (34:3A-7)
Anyone in violation of the above stat ute is liable to “penalty of not
less than $50 and not more than $250 for the first offense; and, not
more than $500 for each subsequent offense” (NJ, Title 34: 34A-10).
Gasoline attendants themselves are potentially liable for not uphold-
ing the state’s full-service law, and may be fined. The most serious
fines are often levied against companies that allow people to violate
the self-service ban. Companies can be fined thousands of dollars for
not strictly adhering to their state’s self-service ban.
The self-service gasoline station bans in New Jersey and Oregon have
been challenged several times. In 2006 New Jersey governor Jon Corzine
tried to overturn the ban on self-service gasoline stations in response to
concerns regarding rising gasoline prices. No sooner had he announced
his intention than New Jersey citizens loudly voiced their disapproval of
the new policy. Less than a week after making his proposal, Governor
Corzine withdrew his plan. In 2002, state senator Gerald Cardinale
(R–District 39) also attempted to remove New Jersey’s self-service ban,
but he, too, quickly met with overwhelming public resistance. Reversal
of Oregon’s self-service ban was placed on public ballot in 1982 and
was soundly defeated. This evidence suggests that most New Jersey and
Oregon citizens favor their state’s self-service ban.
Do Statewide Self-Service Bans Lead to More
Expensive Gasoline?
New Jersey’s gasoline prices are consistently below the national aver-
age, while Oregon’s prices are regularly near the national average.
Using monthly gasoline price data from 2002 through the second
Fill ’er Up
Challenge/September–October 2007 107
quarter of 2007 provided by GasBuddy—an independent organization
that collects data on gasoline prices across the United States—the five-
year average price per gallon of gasoline in New Jersey ($1.859), Oregon
($2.037), and the United States ($1.942) are found to be close.3 Johnson
and Romeo (2000) empirically estimated the price difference between
states that ban self-service and those that do not. Their analysis focused
on measuring the difference between the retail price per gallon of
gasoline and the wholesale price of gas. They call this difference the
retail margin, which captures all the costs associated with gasoline
station operations (wages, insurance, rent) minus state-imposed taxes.
Self-service station states should have a lower retail margin than states
with self-service bans. In Johnson and Romeo’s nationwide analysis,
Oregon’s retail price showed an increase of only $0.02 per gallon, and
New Jersey’s estimate was statistically insignificant. In another test,
they compared marginal gasoline prices in Oregon and New Jersey
against those of surrounding states in their respective regions and
found a small difference in price in both states that results in a per-
gallon cost to customers of between $0.03 and $0.05. They further
state that based on their results, “the lack of substantial opposition
to the bans is understandable.”
Advantages of Statewide Self-Service Bans
Self-service gasoline station bans produce many positive effects.
First, disabled and elderly people gain significant benefits. The 1990
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) remains the most important
legislation the United States has ever enacted to protect the rights of
disabled citizens. An estimated 60 million people (roughly 20 percent
of the U.S. population) are aided by the Americans with Disabilities
Act, of which 28 million have a physical disability that makes daily
tasks difficult to accomplish. Moreover, the United States has a grow-
ing elderly population, many of whom will someday gain from laws
mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Millions of physi-
cally disabled Americans find it difficult, if not impossible, to pump
gasoline. Even healthy people can find pumping gasoline unpleasant,
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108 Challenge/September–October 2007
particularly when it is raining or cold. In addition, outside New Jer-
sey and Oregon, people who want full service are finding it harder to
locate and more expensive when they do.
The ADA attempts to address the problem of too few full-service
stations. It currently requires gasoline stations to offer the option of
full-service to disabled and elderly people, but if a station has only one
employee working, it is exempt from adherence to this law. According
to Karen Kielinski (2003), “Although laws require service stations to
provide refueling assistance when needed, the process is often inef-
fective.” Furthermore, gasoline stations are not supposed to charge
more for gasoline provided by full service than by self-service. Recent
research indicates that price disparit y does exist (Johnson and Romeo
2000). Because gasoline price variation often occurs among seemingly
homogeneous gasoline stations (even ones located across the street
from one another), it is difficult to determine whether a station charges
more because it offers full service or if other factors (unobserved dis-
similarities) are responsible for the price difference. While the ADA
has attempted to increase the number of gasoline stations that offer
full service, it does not go far enough (Kielinski 2003). The law needs
to promote policies that will ensure more stations offer full service
by either removing the “one employee, no full service” exemption
or by requiring a certain percentage of a state’s gasoline stations to
offer full service without exception. During our empirical analysis of
gasoline stations (detailed below), we found that few self-service sta-
tions make customers aware that they offer full service. In addition,
few self-service stations had more than one person working.
Second, when gasoline prices rise, the amount stolen (drive-offs or
gas-and-dashes) increases as well. Drive-off thefts are expensive for gas
stations. The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) (2006)
reported that drive-off theft losses in 2004 totaled $237 million, an aver-
age of almost $2,000 per store. It further states that a gasoline retailer
would have to sell an additional 3,000 gallons of gasoline to offset a
$30 loss due to gasoline theft. So when wholesale gasoline prices rise,
companies cannot recoup theft losses easily, which often translates
into higher prices for customers. One Diamond Shamrock store in
Fill ’er Up
Challenge/September–October 2007 109
Texas reported gasoline theft losses of $2,800 in one month. Even with
states increasing penalties for gasoline theft and companies tightening
their security (at significant cost), stations are still experiencing regular
theft. However, in New Jersey and Oregon, drive-off rates are negligible
because customers cannot handle the fuel pump and gasoline station
attendants are present and accessible.
Third, self-service stations present environmental concerns. People
who fill their gasoline tanks too full and improperly dispense gasoline
can unintentionally cause significant harm to the environment. In
Oregon, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) promotes
the state’s self-service ban because customer errors while pumping
gasoline account for significant increases in groundwater and air pollu-
tion. Inattentive gasoline dispensing can lead to increases in gasoline
vapors that cause ozone depletion and toxic air pollutants such as
benzene, a known carcinogen. Filling a gasoline tank to overflowing
can cause a vehicle’s vapor collection system to fail, which reduces
a car’s fuel efficiency and overall performance. In Mount Pleasant,
Pennsylvania, a gasoline station attendant must be within fifteen feet
of all pumps. This law was enacted because of several incidents of
careless gasoline pumping that led to environmental problems in the
1970s. And recent attempts to overturn this ordinance in Mount Pleas-
ant have failed. Furthermore, state representative W. Curtis Thomas
(D-Philadelphia) is attempting to pass a statewide ban on self-service
stations in Pennsylvania (Nephin 2005).
Fourth, some people argue that getting gasoline at full-service sta-
tions takes much longer than self-service. We studied this question by
timing random cars at a variety of gasoline stations (all of similar size)
at different times (morning, afternoon, evening) and days of the week
during the spring and summer months of 2006 in several counties on
the border of New Jersey (statewide self-service ban) and Pennsylvania
(no statewide self-service ban). Research assistants began timing when
a car’s front bumper entered a station’s lot and stopped timing when
the car began to pull away from the pump. If the car parked without
initially getting gasoline, it was eliminated from the sample. All days,
times, and conditions were as identical as possible.
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110 Challenge/September–October 2007
The resulting sample consisted of 399 observations (219 observa-
tions in New Jersey and 180 in Pennsylvania). A Mann-Whitney U-
test was run to find out whether any difference existed between the
times it took to get gasoline in New Jersey versus Pennsylvania. We
found that there is a statistically significant difference of 5 percent,
but the difference is small. The average time for obtaining gasoline
in New Jersey was 3 minutes and 53 seconds (standard deviation of
66 seconds) and in Pennsylvania, 3 minutes and 38 seconds (standard
deviation of 64 seconds)—a difference of only 15 seconds, and a dif-
ference in standard deviation of only two seconds. Further, the fastest
someone was recorded obtaining gasoline in New Jersey was 1 minute
and 33 seconds, and in Pennsylvania 1 minute and 25 seconds (an
eight-second difference). The longest someone spent getting gasoline
in New Jersey was 7 minutes and 18 seconds, and in Pennsylvania
6 minutes and 45 seconds (a thirty-three-second difference). These
findings challenge the conventional belief that purchasing gasoline
takes considerably longer at full-service stations than at self-service
stations. The perception that it takes longer at a full-service station
probably stems from the fact that drivers are inactive while waiting
for the attendant to pump their gasoline.
Fifth, full-service gasoline stations pay less in insurance costs
because having qualified attendants pump customers’ gasoline re-
duces stations’ liabilit y. Many accidents occur because of customer
negligence. From 1994 to 1998, an estimated 4,620 gasoline fires
and explosions occurred at gasoline stations each year involving
vehicles. These fires and explosions resulted in one civilian death,
37 injuries, and almost $8 million in property damage per year
(Ahrens 2002). Huntington, Long Island, has banned self-service
gasoline stations since the 1980s. This ban was initiated to reduce
the potential danger from customers’ pumping their own gasoline
(Rather 2007).
In recent years, fires and explosions at gasoline stations caused
by electrostatic (triboelectric) charges have increased significantly.
Electrostatic charging commonly occurs when people exit their cars
without grounding themselves. Electrostatic build-up can cause a
Fill ’er Up
Challenge/September–October 2007 111
spark that can ignite gasoline, causing both personal and property
damage. Robert Renkes (2007) of the Petroleum Equipment Institute
(PEI) initiated an ongoing analysis of electrostatic gasoline station
fires. He collected a sample consisting of 166 incidents of refueling
fires caused by electrostatic charges since 1992. In these 166 incidents,
34 cars were completely destroyed, 14 had severe paint damage, nine
had $1,000–$8,000 in damages, nine had melting around the fill pipe,
and many more had a variety of lesser damages. During this same
period, roughly t wo dozen people suffered first- or second-degree
burns due to fires while filling their gasoline tanks. Of all recorded
accounts, 79 fires were caused when people entered and exited their
cars while pumping gasoline and did not ground themselves before
handling the gasoline pumps. Another 59 fires were sparked without
anyone entering and exiting their cars. And 17 fires occurred while
people were handling their gasoline caps. New Jersey and Oregon had
the two lowest incident scores throughout the study’s fourteen-year
period. Both states had only one incident each. Nebraska had the
most gasoline pump fires at 14, Texas 11, Colorado 10, Missouri 10,
California 7, and so on. These accidents cost insurance companies
millions of dollars a year and physically harm dozens of people an-
nually. Statewide self-service bans, therefore, reduce insurance costs
in New Jersey and Oregon because insurance companies recognize the
risks associated with self-service. Furthermore, if an insurance com-
pany fails to pay a damage or injury claim, gasoline station owners
are often left to pay for it using their insurance, consequently raising
their insurance rates.
Finally, self-service bans create jobs. These jobs require minimal
skills and can be performed by almost anyone—men or women, im-
migrants or citizens, all races, even people with disabilities (both
physical and mental). Such jobs are becoming scarce in the country.
They fill an important need for the less advantaged in the popula-
tion, many of whom find it difficult to get work that is not labor
intensive and requires minimal English language proficiency. Job
creation should not be the purpose of self-service bans; it is merely
a fortunate consequence.
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112 Challenge/September–October 2007
Policy Considerations
New Jersey and Oregon have upheld their statewide bans on self-
service while other states have succumbed to pressures to allow
self-service stations. States that enact bans will likely accrue benefits
similar to those experienced by New Jersey and Oregon. The aver-
age state in the United States would create more than 3,000 jobs by
forgoing self-service stations. Of the nearly 170,000 gasoline stations
in the United States (“U.S. Annual Station Count” 2006), if each sta-
tion hired one additional worker, it would increase U.S. employment
by roughly 150,000 (excluding New Jersey and Oregon). It is probably
unrealistic to believe that every state in the United States will adopt
self-service bans, but for some states it is a reasonable policy—especially
since many states had bans until the late 1970s. As was presented above,
statewide self-service bans do not have a drastic effect on gasoline
prices. Statewide self-service bans are preferable to local bans (such as
in Huntington, New York), because they spread the costs and advantages
across an entire state.
If federal and state governments promoted hybrid stations that
offered both full and self-service, perhaps it would eliminate some
arguments against self-service bans. Hybrid gasoline stations may even
get lower insurance rates, like full-service stations, because they have
full-time attendants watching their stations (as in Mount Pleasant,
Pennsylvania). Attendants’ presence will likely reduce thefts, limit
environmental problems, and ensure customer safety. Statewide bans
will probably generate the greatest benefits, but adequately comparing
these two approaches is beyond the scope of this paper.
Federal and state governments can encourage self-service station
bans by giving many different types of subsidies and incentives to
participating states. Through the ADA, the government could require
that a certain percentage, say, 20 percent (the proportion of disabled
Americans), of gasoline stations in each state offer an adequate full-ser-
vice option. The government could increase unemployment benefits
for states that enact self-service bans. It could also give participating
states subsidies that reduce (or at least stabilize) gasoline prices. This
would help eliminate consumers’ and states’ fears of a possible in-
Fill ’er Up
Challenge/September–October 2007 113
crease in gasoline prices caused by new self-service bans. To alleviate
some of station owners’ fears, the government could help subsidize
the initial expenses they incur by switching to full service.
Some people may argue that requiring full-service (even hybrid)
stations goes against natural economic mechanisms by placing un-
necessary regulations on gasoline station owners. But gasoline station
attendants are different from other workers who have been displaced
by technology (or ceremonially) in the past. For example, automatic
teller machines (ATMs) have probably reduced the demand for bank
tellers. Elevator operators, a courtesy of a bygone era, are few and far
between today. But full-service gasoline station attendants are dif-
ferent from these examples. First, no one has ever died, caused major
property damage, or created an environmental disaster by going to an
ATM or operating an elevator—the same cannot be said about pumping
gasoline. Further, technology like ATMs actually makes life easier for
most people by offering many banking services anytime and at more
locations—and if a teller is needed, they are still accessible during
regular banking hours. In addition, it is unlikely that disabled and
elderly people have difficulty operating elevators. Gasoline station
attendants serve an important role in society and the economy that
technology has yet to adequately replace.
Conclusion
For more than fifty years the bans on self-service stations in New Jersey
and Oregon have survived with strong public support. This suggests
that similar policy would be supported in other states, and any state
that adopts a self-service ban will likely realize the same advantages
as those seen in New Jersey and Oregon. Some people in states that
ban self-service may have to wait a few seconds longer on average
to get their gasoline tanks filled, but for most people the social and
economic gains are more important.
Notes
1. These estimates were provided by Stacey Standish of the Bureau of Labor
Statistics in a personal communication on June 12, 2006.
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114 Challenge/September–October 2007
2. Oregon’s reasons for its ban (ORS §§480.310 to 480.340) are roughly equiva-
lent to those of New Jersey; so, to avoid repetition, only New Jersey’s statutes are
presented.
3. GasBuddy generously provided its data with permission to publish any
findings.
For Further Reading
Ahrens, M. 2002. “Special Data Information Package: Fires in or at Service Stations
and Motor Vehicle Repair Shops and Paint Shops.” National Fire Protection
Agency, Quincy, MA.
Jakle, J.A., and K. Sculle. 1994. The Gas Station in America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press.
Johnson, R., and C. Romeo. 2000. “The Impact of Self-Service Bans in the Retail
Gasoline Market.” Review of Economics and Statistics 82, no. 4: 625–33.
Kielinski, K. 2003. “Pump It Up!” Real Living with Multiple Sclerosis 10, no. 1: 1,
14–15.
National Association of Convenience Stores. 2006. “Gasoline Theft at Convenience
Stores.” Available at www.nacsonline.com/NACS/Resource/PRToolkit/Fact-
Sheets/prtk_fact_gastheft.htm.
Nephin, D. 2005. “At Your Service.” Intelligencer, August 5, 8C.
Rather, J. 2007. “Gas Dealers Want Self-Service Ban Lifted.” New York Times, March
11, Long Island section, 5.
Renkes, R. 2007. “Fires and Refueling Sites That Appear to Be Static Related (Sum-
mary). Petroleum Equipment Institute. Available at www.pei.org/Uploads/
Stop%20Static%20Summary-Report.pdf.
“U.S. Annual Station Count: A Market Correction.” 2006. National Petroleum News.
Available at http://12.9.210.65/Uploads/Feat ureArticle/06-stationcount.pdf.
To order reprints, call 1-800-352-2210; outside the United States, call 717-632-3535.
... But this ignores the fact that consumers would be paying higher prices to support the wages of these newly hired gas station workers (and also waiting longer to get the cars filled up with gas) and because of that would have to cut back spending on other things by an equivalent amount, leading to a reduction in jobs in other sectors by an equivalent amount. 144 The only thing that would have been accomplished is that consumers would be worse off as they would be getting the same amount of gas station services, but would be consuming less of other items. ...
Article
Full-text available
The past decade has witnessed a rapid growth in self service that allows consumers to take on the traditional role of a service worker in the provision of a service. Self service has long existed - think of placing a call by dialing a telephone instead of using a telephone operator or pressing a button in an elevator instead of using an elevator operator - but its importance has grown as advances in information technology (IT) have created many opportunities to leverage self-service technology for large gains in efficiency and convenience. Using computer kiosks, airline travelers check in to their flights; on the Internet, consumers purchase products without ever speaking to a sales agent; and, using a mobile phone, customers check their bank balances and transfer funds. Self-service technology continues to become more efficient and more convenient, and, as a result, increasingly organizations, including businesses, non-profits and governments, are using self-service technology to operate more productively and to better serve their customers.Self-service technology has already transformed entire industries, from ATMs in banking to e-commerce in the travel industry, resulting in significant savings for businesses which are passed on to consumers in the form of lower prices and better service. However, even though self-service technology has generated a wide range of benefits and savings for consumers, businesses, and government, it is only the beginning. Over at least the next decade, self-service technology has the potential to be a major force for growth in productivity and improvements in quality of life. We estimate that if self-service technology were more widely deployed, the U.S. economy would be approximately $130 billion larger annually, the equivalent of an additional $1,100 in annual income for every household.These savings could not be coming at a more crucial time. Most national economies will need the power of self-service technologies if they are to avoid serious economic problems stemming from significant growth in the number of retirees, a situation that will be particularly acute in Europe, Japan, and the United States. In the United States, for example, the number of retirees for every 1,000 working age adults is projected to grow from 213 today to 346 by 2030. For Social Security recipients in 2030 to not see a decline in their inflation-adjusted payments without workers seeing a decline in their after-tax incomes, economic productivity will have to increase by 62 percent. Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration estimates productivity will grow just 40 percent. As a result, in 2030, either worker incomes after Social Security taxes are deducted will be significantly lower, or Social Security benefits will be lower, or both. Self-service technologies promise to be a major source of needed productivity growth, enabling the United States, Japan, Europe, and other nations facing demographic challenges to realize such growth without reductions in wages or benefits.But these benefits will not automatically occur unless the right policies are in place and the wrong ones are avoided. First, governments should avoid putting in place restrictions on self-service business models and processes. This means that policymakers must resist the efforts of special interest groups that press for restrictions in technology to protect their economic or social interests at the expense of the average citizen. Second, where appropriate, governments should proactively promote self-service delivery of government services. For example, governments should pass along to citizens the savings from using lower-cost self-service options. Governments should also help create a climate conducive to expansion of self-service technologies. This means that government should support the development and deployment of technologies that enable self-service, like broadband, electronic IDs, and mobile payment systems. In the United States in particular, Congress should increase the minimum wage thereby providing firms with more incentive to invest in self-service technology, while at the same time helping to boost the incomes of low income Americans. In addition, Congress should establish an academic Center of Excellence to develop best practices for accessible design for self-service technology. Finally, we recommend that policymakers establish stronger safety nets for workers adversely affected by technological change so that the workforce can more easily adapt to a rapidly changing economy.Self-service technology offers a broad set of benefits to consumers and businesses and has the potential to contribute even more to our national prosperity and quality of life. While self-service technology is widespread, it is still relatively new and will only continue to improve in quality over time. However, policymakers must avoid enacting policies to restrict self-service while at the same time putting in place appropriate policies to stimulate the self-service economy to realize these benefits.
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Ahrens, M. 2002. "Special Data Information Package: Fires in or at Service Stations and Motor Vehicle Repair Shops and Paint Shops." National Fire Protection Agency, Quincy, MA.