Thursday, March 30, 2006

Buying Gas on the New Jersey Turnpike

I haven’t posted in a while, due to my travel schedule. Hence I’m writing this piece on a plane back from Phoenix.

I’ve always been fascinated by consumer behavior more so after reading Why We Buy by Paco Underhill.

This past weekend my wife and I drove back from Long Island via the Jersey Turnpike, of course I waited to gas up in Jersey since they usually have the cheapest gas as well as full service. Since it was late Sunday afternoon we were one of about a hundred others waiting to buy gas at one of the rest stops.

What never ceases to amaze me are the lines to the pumps.

The consumers automatically line up with the gas cap facing the pumps. This usually results in a massive imbalance of lines between the different pump facings. What’s blows my mind is that the hoses are actually long enough to reach the other side of the car. I always take advantage of this fact and avoid the lines, but even as people in line watch the attendants pump my gas they don’t move. There can be a line of twenty cars for a particular side on a row of pumps while the other side has no line.

Maybe people are afraid of the hose scratching their car.

Maybe they can’t read the sign saying, “hoses can reach the opposite side of the car.”

Maybe they are completely zoned out rocking out to the radio.

My personal guess is that this is due to the need to conform. At Disney World where most rides have two parallel queuing lines I always found the left line shorter when you can’t actually see the line (meaning its hidden inside the ride etc.) My conjecture is that people are used to driving on the right side of the road. This tends to drive their choice in which line to choose.

Don’t get me wrong, I like this consumer behavior because it personally saves me time. I’d love to read your thoughts on why this anomaly exists.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why We Buy is a great book!