Beware: Possibility of No Air!


(Photo by Ray Johnson)

The Air King Self-Service Air machine at the Ave Y Gulf Station — a.k.a. 1611 Ave Y Petroleum (between East 16 St and East 17 St) may or may not work. Be forewarned before you put in your quarters.

Not too long ago, three quarters placed into the machine for the promised three minutes of air to fill my tires yielded nothing — not even hot air. The price for the three minutes has been scratched off completely, but figuring it was the going rate of 50 cents, I slipped two quarters into the machine. When the machine didn’t start humming, I added another quarter. It still wasn’t working.

I suddenly felt like Alicia Keys singing, “Tell me how I am supposed to drive with no air?”.

The temperature was about 28 degrees and I wasn’t about to stand around checking every single quarter in my pocket to see if it would yield the magic result. I headed straight to the clerk’s booth.

Read more about how it worked out after the jump.

He wasn’t very helpful and tried every single trick in the gas station manual for staying safe in today’s dangerous world of irate customers. He tried to: pretend I was invisible, motioned that he couldn’t hear, said that he doesn’t speak English, made motions as if he didn’t understand what I was trying to say, tried to pretend that he wasn’t aware there was an air machine on the side of his booth, and said that there was nothing wrong with the air machine.

Finally, after much animated expression on my part, he admitted that sometimes when the coins are dropped in too quickly, the machine doesn’t register them. Hmm, how convenient.

Not wanting to drive to another gas station in hopes that they have a working air machine, I asked the clerk to start the machine up for me. He said that he couldn’t do that, so I insisted on my money back. He said that he couldn’t do that, either.

My request to speak to the station manager yielded me his cell phone number. At the same time, the clerk gave me 75 cents back, letting me know that he was not supposed to do that.

I grabbed the quarters and headed over to the BP Gas Station at
3010 Ocean Ave & Jerome Ave. Thankfully, the machine was working fine, as usual.

Gas station clerks have a tough job, having to work in unpleasant surroundings where they are forced to breathe those awful fumes. Plus, they live in fear for their lives. So, I really don’t fault the clerk for the way that he dealt with the situation. Even though it did take some effort on my part, he did send me away with my requests fulfilled.

A call to the station manager, Zabi, was quick and satisfying. He said that he would check the machine, make sure that the price was posted on it, and speak to the station clerks about how to deal with the situation in the future. Additionally, he said that he would get the machine serviced to make sure it registers the coins and if the problem persists, since he is in charge of 25 service stations, he will consider purchasing air machines manufactured by a company other than American Products, Inc. At more than a thousand dollars a pop, he’d do well to make sure he is getting what he’s paying for — nothing but air.

At my next trip to the Ave Y Gulf service station, I noticed the same machine was purring perfectly as a customer filled his tires with air. So, it’s very likely that it was having a bad day when I was there.

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