What I Learned from Pumping Gas


My first “real” job was at a Sunoco gas station when gas was 35 cents a gallon. Button down shirt with blue jeans and work boots.  Change in my front left pocket, bills in the right. Left back pocket held the rag to check the oil sticks and the right back pocket had green stamps.  Commission on a quart of oil: 5 cents! I worked there 4 months through the summer and beginning of fall.  Buddy Beach was my first boss.  A friend of mine who was Buddy’s nephew told me there might be an opening.  I walked in and announced to the guy who was standing there, “I’m gonna get a job here!”  Imagine my embarassment when I found out he was the owner!!

That first job taught me a lot:

  • Look the customer in the eye.  The boss too.
  • Politeness counts.
  • Honesty counts.
  • Neatness counts too.
  • So does speed!  Don’t make the customers wait or they’ll drive away without paying.
  • Show up on time. Stay till the job is done.
  • Added value makes for loyal customers.  Wash the windshield. Check the oil. Don’t let the gas spill over on the paint job.  Count back change. Say thank you.
  • Always let the radiator cool down before you open it to add water.
  • If you don’t know where some place is, say “I don’t know.” Don’t send give them directions that sends them on a wild goose chase.
  • Green stamps add up.  People would come to our station just for the stamps.  Kinda reminds me of the frequent buyer cards we use now.

What have your odd jobs taught you?

UPDATE: Check out Middle Zone Musing’s odd jobs from Robert Hruzek’s challenge and don’t miss Mark Goodyear’s Lessons from Odd Jobs.

Thanks Robert and Robyn for inspiring this post!

Flickr creative commans photo courtesy of Adwriter

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Author: Chris Brown

Business owner operating a marketing consulting firm. Online Publisher. Keynote Speaker.

8 thoughts on “What I Learned from Pumping Gas”

  1. Hi Chris, I can just imagine you out there in your jeans and button down shirt. In those days windshields front and back were always cleaned.

    Now we pump our own gas at $3.35+ per gallon and none of the amenities are included.

    Your lessons are life-long, Chris.

    Wow, you are fast once you decide to move on an idea for a blog!

  2. I love your statement about looking the customer and the boss in the eye. We always hear that the customer is always right. Makes me think we might adjust our attitude toward authority and remember another truth. The boss is right as often as the customer.

  3. Hi Chris,
    I had a similar experience with a commission only gas station job. It did have the desired effect, I certainly checked EVERYONE’s oil mostly because of that way too small commission. But it did happen, so I guess that taught me that what gets measured, gets improved. Simple lesson.

    GL HOFFMAN, what would dad say.

  4. Pingback: Results from the What I Learned From Odd Jobs Group Writing Project } Group Writing Projects

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