Why Can't You Pump Your Own Gas in New Jersey?

In 1947, Frank Urich opened the first modern self-serve gas station in Los Angeles. With the slogan “Save 5 cents, serve yourself, why pay more?” the station sold more than 500,000 gallons in its first month. It wasn’t long before self-serve gas stations began popping up all across the country. However, in 1949 a ban on self-serve gas began in New Jersey. The Retail Gasoline Dispensing Safety Act cited safety concerns like fire hazards, but like a lot of things in New Jersey, there’s a more sinister reason for the ban that’s worthy of a Tony Soprano storyline. The legislation supposedly arose as a tactic to fix gas prices and stop enterprising business owner Irving Reingold from undercutting his competitors. Reingold’s station offered gas at 18.9¢ a gallon, while others were selling for 21.9¢. The idea was a hit with his customers and they lined up for blocks. When shooting up his gas station didn’t deter Reingold — thanks to bullet-proof glass — the rival owners turned to the law for a solution. They persuaded the state to pass a resolution outlawing self-serve gas, which quickly passed. Reingold was out of the gas business and consumers returned to paying higher gas prices. In the ensuing decades there have been challenges to the law, but all have failed. Today New Jersey is the only state that does not allow self-serve gas stations. Oregon used to prohibit self-serve gas, but in 2015 eased its law to allow some rural and tribal areas to permit customers to pump their own gas.