The first time I drove into New Jersey by myself, I was quite unaware by the gas station attendant who insisted on pumping my gas. Within a story in the Wall Street Journal about this rare “cultural entitlement” in the United States is a short history of how the law has been upheld in New Jersey courts:
In 1949, the year New Jersey banned them, America had 200 self-service gas stations. Thirteen other states had banned them, too. (Portsmouth, Va., banned attendants on roller skates.) The fear was that unprofessional pumpers would blow themselves up.
Calling the New Jersey law “oppressive,” two dealers sued. They lost. The state’s Supreme Court, upholding the verdict in 1951, declared gasoline inherently “dangerous in use.” In 1988, a judge in a lower court ruled the law unconstitutional. An appeals panel cited the 1951 case and reversed him.
In 2006, then Gov. John Corzine took another shot at the law, proposing a self-service test on the New Jersey Turnpike. He wanted to watch prices drop, as cost-cutters like Mr. Gill say they will. The dealers’ lobby didn’t object. But the public did—so loudly that Mr. Corzine ditched his test before it began.
Fascinating how one state could keep this law on the books long after other places have moved on. Before I had read this article, I had no idea gas pumping could be a constitutional question. At this point, is there anyone who has any interest (and resources) to challenge this in court?