Fill'er Up With Situational Awareness
There are typically four or five gas stations that I fill up at on a regular basis. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. I've been thinking a lot lately about better ways to fill up, especially if times are getting bad and crime is getting worse.
Be careful where you fill up. To do that you need to plan ahead. Don't wait until you are running on fumes. When I was driving my truck every day, I could fill up every other day and never much below a half a tank. With the Element, I get better mileage, but it is a much smaller tank. I just can't bring myself to fill every day to keep it above a half, so I normally let it get to between a quarter and a third and fill up every other day like I used to. I plan a day in advance of filling up, and use that time to scout out prices among my usual stops. If I find an unusually low price on my route, I sometimes make an opportunity purchase, but for just a few cents a gallon, I go to one of my regulars. I base my normal stations on relatively low prices, usual availability of an open pump, the way the pumps are positioned in relation to each other, if there is a hook thingee to keep the pump handle squeezed, and to the store, and ease of ingress and egress from the road.
Approaching The Pump
I like to pause for a moment after entering the lot and observe the pumps. I try to choose one without other cars at the adjacent pumps and where I can be pointed relatively straight at the lot exit. I pull in on an angle with either the front or rear of my rig forming a wedge with the pump island. If the front is angled in, I keep my driver's door closed, and fill up with my back to the car and the pump handle on my right side. That puts me between the hose and the rear bumper, and I can scan my surroundings while pumping. If the rear is angled in I keep my driver's door open and I stand between the door and the pump handle with the handle on my left while scanning my surroundings. Either way this gives me a buffer zone that signals to bums or others to not approach me. If they come near my buffer zones, it signals me to elevate my Jeff Cooper color condition to orange.
We have a completely separate account in another bank that we use only for a gas debit card. I normally hit the "no receipt" button if it is offered. At one particular gas station I use, I don't have the option, and I make sure to get my receipt when the pump spits it out. They actually print the card holder's name and the last four digits of the card number on the receipt. You'd be amazed at how many people just leave the receipt hanging in the machine. It would be really easy to find one, look up the person's name, and have a conversation like this:
Hello, Mr. Schmuckatelli? This is Bob from the Visa fraud alert department, we have some suspicious activity on your card ending in 4567. Can you confirm if the card is in your possession by reading me the entire number? OK, great, can you confirm the three digit security code on the back of the card for me? Great, thanks... Now, just to be sure that I am talking to the real Mr. Schmuckatelli, can you confirm your date of birth and mother's maiden name for me? Wonderful. Now, Mr. Schmuckatelli, the suspicious activity is for ordering a BowFlex machine for $1,299 for delivery to an address in Puerto Rico, did you make that order? Well I am glad it was flagged and we got to you in time to stop it. It's obvious that your card has been compromised, so here's what we need to do. I'm going to cancel that card right now so no more fraud can go against it and we will mail you a new card. To what address should we mail it? OK, great... now please cut up that card and be sure to cancel any recurring charges like a gym membership that you have on it. OK, Mr. Schmuckatelli, is there anything else that I can help you with tonight? OK, great. Please know that the Visa fraud department places our customers' financial security above all else and we are always available to help. Have a wonderful evening!
I'm pretty confident that at least 50 percent of the population would spew out the information with no hesitation. Grab that receipt!
Once I'm full I either hop in, lock up and pull away, or, if I need to grab a Diet Coke or hit the head or something, I pull away from the pumps and park in front of the store.
Filling up with gas is something we all do all the time (unless you live in New Jersey or Oregon). It puts us in a vulnerable position, but with a little awareness and planning, should not put us at risk.