Full service stations alive in Carson
By Dave Frank
Appeal Staff Writer
Bob Lamkin doesn’t know who will replace customers paying extra to have their gas pumped and cars inspected, but it probably won’t be young people.
“They’ll have a four-dollar-and-fifty-cent cup of Starbucks every morning on the way to work,” said Lamkin, owner of Bob’s Shell in Carson City, “but they’ll complain about the price of gas.”
Lamkin’s station at the corner of Carson and Caroline streets is one of only two left in the city that offers full service – the option of paying more per gallon to have their gas pumped, oil checked, windshield washed and tires inspected by an attendant.
“Now I don’t hit heavy on tires,” said Lamkin, 61, “but if they want their tires checked, we check their tires.”
Almost everyone, however, who parks in front of one of the two full-service pumps at his station are over 50, he said. This is different than in 1979 when he opened the shop with father and most stations offered full service.
The places that don’t have it aren’t service stations, he said. They’re “fuel outlets.”
“You take a woman who’s 60 years old,” he said. “No husband, nobody else. I mean, someone’s got to look after this car for them.”
Lamkin’s daughter, Carie Olivera, said other people sometimes want the service, too.
“There’s also the guy who comes in with his $2,000 suit,” she said. “Now if I was wearing a $2,000 outfit, I wouldn’t want to get gas on me either.”
Bobby Thind, owner of Carson City Shell at 1600 N. Carson St., said some customers who pay extra to have their gas pumped and car checked are young women, but most are older.
Sometimes, he said, they just want someone to talk to.
“People like us and we like them,” said Thind, who took over the station in 2006.
Gas prices have risen about 60 cents a gallon over the past year, but full service customers are willing to pay more that the already high price just like they would pay more for any quality service, said Steve Yarborough, owner of the four Sierra Service Stations in Reno that charge about 65 cents extra a gallon for full service.
It’s like paying more for at a diner for a diner than a fast-food restaurant, he said.
The decline of full service gas stations started in the mid-1970s due to U.S. policy changes, said George Ross, a former government relations director for Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO).
Oil companies then couldn’t depend as much on profits from production, he said, and were forced to concentrate on marketing.
This led independent gas stations to offer the cheaper and faster self-service, he said. ARCO did the same in 1982, followed by larger companies.
Full service became “just an extra expense” for companies trying to compete, Ross said.
But for Joanne Kennedy, 72, paying for full service at Bob’s Shell is worth the cost despite already “exorbitant” gas prices.
“I figure in my time of life,” she said, “I don’t have to pump my own gas.”
• Contact reporter Dave Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.