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Flexing That Polite Spine Muscle

Just wanted to give a quick thanks to everyone at Etiquette Hell for giving me the knowledge of a polite spine… and the courage to use it.

I work at a gas station, and one of the last things I do before closing shop for the night is turn off the lights and pumps themselves for the fueling island. The breaker for these is located in a back room, which you cannot see the pumps themselves from.

Recently while closing up shop and going about my normal duties, I had a confrontation with a man who decided that he didn’t have to abide by store hours to get gas. At some point between when I left the front counter and when I turned off the gas pumps, he pulled into our parking lot and attempted to start pumping gas… and became notably outraged that the pump had been shut off. While I was getting ready to leave, I heard knocking on our front door and went to investigate.

This man demanded that I stop inconveniencing him and turn the fuel pumps back on. I told him that wouldn’t be possible, as once the system is shut off for the night, it takes several minutes to get started again. He tried to claim that I should have checked if anyone was fueling before shutting the pumps off, to which I said that was not possible.

Then he set me up for the perfect polite spine opportunity.

“But I’m on fumes!”

I smiled as sweetly as I could manage and shook my head. “Sorry, sir, but lack of planning on your part is not an emergency on mine. I cannot restart the system once it has been shut down for the night.”

Had he stuck around I would have given him directions to a different gas station not too far away, but that statement made him storm back to his car and leave. Funny, being “on fumes” didn’t stop him from gunning his engine and screeching his tires out of our parking lot.

Since I work closing and not opening, I don’t know how long the system actually takes to start up after being shut down. What I do know is that he obviously had to use a credit card at the pump to get it on in the first place, and our pumps have a safety feature that prevents a credit card from being used outside more than once per day. So, even if I had turned the system back on for him, he wouldn’t have been able to use his credit card to pump gas. And the other thing I know is exactly what I said–his poor planning isn’t my emergency.    1122-15


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • JO November 24, 2015, 6:02 am

    Good for you!! I hope your manager is proud, they should be!

    • JenAnn November 24, 2015, 9:14 pm

      Absolutely not, the manager should be appalled! She states that he must have swiped a credit card to get the pumps turned on in the first place…..so their system for shutting down is terrible! Who wouldn’t be upset if you got so far as to swipe your card and start pumping (which is how it is stated, see her last paragraph), and were shut down partway into the transaction. The system is to blame, and then when he was upset for good reason (though not very polite about it), OP gets snarky on him instead of acknowledging that the station’s shut-down process has this unfortunate gap and smoothing things over. Were I that customer, I’d be concerned about whether there was a charge on my card, and/or a hold, and also confused about what was happening. It would appear he drove up with the lights and pumps still on, and to me that would signal it was open for business, especially for a pay at the pump transaction.

      Having worked in customer service and fast food when I was younger, I personally always try to be considerate about business hours and so on, but I doubt I would have realized this station was closing based on how the situation is described. I do realize there are limits to “the customer is always right” concept, but OP fell far short of what I would expect from myself had I been in her position. There is no way to know now how the man would have reacted had OP been nicer and more helpful in her explanation, but it’s possible he would have calmed down and thanked her for directions to the nearest gas station. I’ve had that experience before with the crankiest customers, who ended up apologizing and thanking me because I kept trying to be polite/helpful through their anger and frustration. As an employee of a business, that is how I was supposed to handle customers!

      And…..the OP may very well have put herself into danger by handling the situation as described. Late at night, alone, very angry customer – just not smart.

      • JO November 25, 2015, 6:04 am

        I respectfully disagree. I have spent many years in customer service myself, including much time in gas stations. The OP didn’t lead with the line about lack of planning. She (or he – the gender of the OP is not actually disclosed) explained the situation, while the customer continued to argue. I will concede that giving directions to the next station first may have been more polite, but it certainly doesn’t sound as though this customer was prepared to listen to reason. OP states the customer “attempted” to start pumping gas. Not that he started and the pump stopped. We also don’t know how dangerous this was. OP states the customer was banging on the door, so this whole exchange could have taken place through locked bulletproof glass. It’s also possible that the OP was a man, perhaps even significantly larger than the customer. I have seen many, many employees get themselves into trouble by yielding to customer demands that were against policy. This is why I say the manager should be proud – the OP remained calm, explained his/her position and that is was not possible to turn the pumps back on. Could it have gone better? Possibly. But while I understand that others may think differently, I still think the OP did ok here.

        • abby November 25, 2015, 8:50 am

          I don’t disagree that the customer was rude, and likely would have left unhappy regardless of what the OP said, but I think the poor planning = not my problem comment was very rude and really, not relevant here. The guy had started the transaction already (perhaps he hadn’t started pumping, but he had swiped his card, and the lights had been on when he pulled in. I don’t think you can blame “poor planning”- the OP didn’t know enough about his situation to make such a comment).

          Not an unforgivable comment, but the OP *did* write in to an etiquette website expecting accolades for how he/she handled the situation.

          • crebj November 25, 2015, 9:53 am

            I’m with you. Surely the OP will be treated with the same lack of courtesy, called here a Polite Spine, some time. Saying “eff you” politely does not lessen the “eff.”

          • NostalgicGal November 25, 2015, 8:19 pm

            I just put this in the line of commentation in no particular order.

            We have one station in town that has a card reader….. that if you swipe a card you have a minute and about 15 to punch more keys and hit the start (so you can pump gas). It dumps a preauthorization during your punch this and that of $1 to see if the card is ‘valid’ then, if you do not start pumping in that time window, it zarks off and puts a $125 hold on your card. Whether you pumped a drop. Inside can’t do a thing for you, neither can your bank or card company. It takes 72 hours to the minute for the hold and pre authorization to come off.

            Now then, for the OP, if someone is in middle of transaction there should be something to let the operator know there is a transaction in progress (pumping of gas) before they shut things down. As for the person outside, there should be a notice of some kind displayed that says ‘out of service’ or some such if the pump has been shut down. If there isn’t there should be.

            One of our gas stations decided it was not worth being open between 1 and 5 am and do close down. Their pumps have a warning that starts flashing on the screen that the pumps will be turning off in so many minutes. IF you are pumping and shutdown warning commences, all other banks of pumps will shut off other than yours, and as soon as you stop pumping, the pump shuts off.

            There is one petrol and one diesel (tall diesel) that are at the truck stop that will pump 24/7 but card only. If it doesn’t like your card you’re not getting gas out of either and the operator inside has no control over either other than to put ‘out of service hoods” on the nozzles and call the number for the tech.

            I see OP had already shut the pump off when the gent attempted to use it. No spine needed.

          • NostalgicGal November 27, 2015, 10:43 pm

            Adding one more from the past. I lived in a greater metro of a few million in the late 1980’s. Someone did a survey and came up with if your shift hours included 11 pm to 2 am (those three hours) that you had a 50% chance of being carried out of your place of employment in a bodybag within two years. They had the statistics.

            Suddenly places especially convenience stores that were open 24/7 and pumped gas couldn’t get workers for the late shift. That IS where some of the chain convenience stores went with security cams, place lit up bright (they called it being in the fishbowl), at least two on duty at all times and a couple inches of bullet proof plexi enclosing the counter and lining the outside windows in that area, plus panic button medallions. They had bank like slide out drawers for transactions you could not pass a hand or weapon through. And the staff did not come out of that box within certain hours no matter what. First week one place did install that someone decided to unload a sawed off shotgun into the plexi at close range, and enough bounced back the police were able to scrape up his still breathing body and send it off.

            I would not want to be the one at the counter at closing time at a place that pumps gas.
            [oh the fast food places that were open that late also went to the fishbowl, panic buttons, and paid close to triple to get closers to work the late hours]

  • Saucygirl November 24, 2015, 6:46 am

    I am not sure I understand this story. Was he actually pumping gas when the gas was turned off? It sounds like he was based on the comment about not being able to use the credit card twice. If he was in the midst of pumping gas, and the lights had still been on, then I agree with him – the op needs a better system for turning off pumps.

    The reality is that with so many stations open 24/7, and the ability to pay at the pump where hours aren’t listed, it can be hard to know if a place is actually open or not – especially if lights are still on.

    Now, if he wasn’t pumping, and it was obvious store was closed, then good job op on having the spine!

    • stacey November 24, 2015, 10:24 am

      Perhaps I don’t understand the issue of the visibility or the timing, but it appears as if OP could, indeed, verify that the pumps have been cleared of customers before proceeding to turn them off. It’s somewhat akin to banks and cashiers clearing their lines after closing. It’s very poor form to invoke the privilege of “my systems dictate that I shut the pumps off for the night” and not take the precaution of making certain that the pumps are, in fact, clear. If it’s closing time and the pumps have been checked to be certain no one is in the midst of pumping, then there is no need to argue. Merely saying “I checked and no one was here. It’s past closing time now, so the equipment is shut off for the night.” I definitely wouldn’t invoke “poor planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on my part” in a customer service context. It’s too likely to escalate an irate customer. Instead- “The nearest fuel station is located at ……” is a better approach. Always tell them what you can do for them. Sympathize a bit, if necessary. (If that’s too much to ask, at least remain politely neutral.)

  • Ergala November 24, 2015, 8:20 am

    I worked at a gas station when I was a teenager. I would have handled this differently. I would have told him where the nearest gas station was instead of using the phrase you did. It probably would have diffused the situation tremendously. “I’m sorry sir but I honestly cannot turn the pumps back on. If you turn left out of the parking lot and drive 5 miles there is another gas station that is open 24 hours. I am so sorry I can’t be of more help.”. Close the door and wait for him to leave then head home yourself.

    • ColoradoCloudy November 24, 2015, 9:42 am

      I think you’ve got the right answer. The OP inflamed the situation by basically telling the customer he was inept. The operative word being ‘customer’.

      • sillyme May 29, 2018, 9:37 am

        Agreed. Also, the OP *assumes* the being on “fumes” stems from “a lack of planning.” For every nine cases of poor planning, there’s one case of a near-empty tank because of various emergencies and circumstances-beyond-one’s-control. OP has no idea which is which, but decides to pass judgment on the customer anyway.

        One comment pointed out that it seemed the pumps and store appeared to be open, he began his business, and the OP turned off the pumps before he could get gas. He correctly pointed out that the OP should have checked for a transaction in progress before turning off the pumps.

        Standing up for yourself when you’re wrong is just … wrong. And the “lack of planning on another’s part” is something we only tell ourselves (with our inside-our-heads-voices) when exercising a polite spine, definitely NOT aloud to customers.

    • TootsNYC November 28, 2015, 1:55 pm

      Yeah, I’m guessing that the OP was mad at the customer for being angry and bossy, and so she* decided to snipe at him instead of actually being helpful.

      The OP said: “Had he stuck around I would have given him directions to a different gas station not too far away, but that statement made him storm back to his car and leave.”

      I wonder why she didn’t just say that in the first place. Oh, but then she couldn’t have gotten her dig in.

      I get that he was rude, but this is retaliatory rudeness, and I am not a fan.

      *or he

  • A different Tracy November 24, 2015, 8:33 am


    I’ve got to say, I don’t find your actions particularly polite. A man shows up to buy gas – probably having no idea you were about to close – has his credit card accepted at the pump, and then the lights go off and he can’t pump gas. And when he asks why you didn’t see him trying to pump gas before you shut everything down, you tell him “that’s not possible” instead of explaining that the pumps aren’t visible from the breaker room. And then you give him the “sweet smile” and the satisfying, but extremely rude comment that a failure to plan on his part isn’t an emergency on yours. Bottom line, as far as I’m concerned, he was rude and you were rude in return. No polite spine here at all.

    • ColoradoCloudy November 24, 2015, 9:42 am


    • Cami November 24, 2015, 10:16 am

      Have to agree.

      I grow weary of the passive aggressive use of “sweet smile” or “sweet” tone of voice when someone is saying or doing something objectionable. A “sweet smile” while saying you can’t help someone is tantamount to a non-verbal taunting. It’s the facial equivalent of “Neener, neener, you can’t get me to do what you want. And I’m glad about it. Neener, neener.”

      Also, having worked with the general public, it’s never wise to poke a bear with a stick, which is what the OP did with her unhelpful words and “sweet smile”. The OP characterizes the interaction as a “confrontation” and the man as “notably outraged.” The customer could have been so enraged that he stuck around for a physical confrontation. I’d advise learning how to learn how to de-escalate a situation, rather than focusing on making yourself feel smug at thwarting someone.

      In this case, instead of using the line the OP was so proud of, OP could have simply said, “I’m sorry I cannot turn the pumps back on. However, the closest open gas station is down the road on the right.” How hard would it have been to say that instead?

      • Calli Arcale November 24, 2015, 2:41 pm

        Regarding poking a bear with a stick, and knowing that gas stations often have a person all by themselves, often young and pulling minimum wage, as the close, I have to seriously question the wisdom of antagonizing the customer. Maybe OP lives in a safer area, but given how many armed robberies happen at gas stations, I would always assume the worst of any angry customer, and adjust my diplomacy accordingly, to ensure I get to go home on my own feet. If I didn’t have anything better to say than “a lack of planning on your part is not an emergency on mine”, then I wouldn’t even answer the door.

        The line about a lack of planning to me comes across as hostile and honestly rather snide. Which is really the point; it’s a blunt way of letting a rude person know that they have been rude and you are not going to be taken advantage of. Useful when dealing with someone you don’t really want to stay friends with but still need to interact with socially. But when the rude person could be packing heat and is obviously already very angry, it’s probably a very foolish thing to say. Do you have the right to say it? Absolutely. Would he be in the wrong if he shot you for it? Again, absolutely. But the moral high ground isn’t of much use when you’re bleeding out in a gas station, alone, in the middle of the night. Nevermind that the rudeness could bring a customer complaint. I’d be more worried about not pissing off the angry person.

    • Melissa November 24, 2015, 10:42 am

      Agreed. If I got that reply, I’d think the attendant was being a jerk. How on earth is a customer supposed to know all the ins and outs of your store’s design..?

  • Michelle November 24, 2015, 8:38 am


    I used to work retail (in a museum souvenir shop) and it was very frustrating when people would wait until 4:59:59 to come in (right as we where closing the door), be there for 45 minutes and then buy a twenty-five cent rock or a piece of rock candy. I remained polite and served them as I did all my customers. Some people seem to think retail employees have no life or anything to do outside of the job.

    • just4kicks November 24, 2015, 9:42 am

      @Michelle: ah, yes, the “I will only be a minute!” customer….I know them well.
      Most of the time they were regulars who KNEW damn well we closed promptly at 9:00pm.
      Then they would mosey around the shop for ten minutes, and more often than not, yell at me because while they were browsing I shut down the lotto machine.

      One couple did this to me, breezed in while I was about to lock the front door.
      “We are from out of town, can I get back on the highway from here?”
      So, I took pity on them, and let the pumps on while they got drinks and snacks “for the road”.
      They were taking their sweet old time, despite asking me what time we close, to which I replied, “well, a few minutes ago, but that’s okay.”
      Since I was allowed to count my drawer with people in the store, I took the opportunity to close down the lotto machine, and fill in my “scratcher tickets” log.
      When they (finally!) came to pay for their items, said they would also like lotto tickets.
      “I’m so sorry, but I closed out the lotto machine while you were shopping”.
      “WHAT?!? Why the F— would you DO THAT?!?”
      “Ummm, because I can’t read minds and would very much like to get home to my kids before ten!”

      • just4kicks November 24, 2015, 11:08 pm

        …was NOT allowed, that should be…..

    • Huh November 24, 2015, 10:00 am

      What is with that? When I worked retail, we had separate doors to enter and exit. I remember waiting for a customer to finish after closing time (one that walked in as you said at 4:59:59), so we had the entrance doors locked and about half of the lights off in the store. As the after-hours customer finally finishes up and walks out the exit, another customer runs in the exit doors! I then had to wait until they were finished before I could close registers and do the nightly reports.

      We also had side doors that were unlocked for morning employees to enter through before the store opened for the day. Had customers sneak in through there. And we always had those that would bang on the entrance doors demanding that we open up. Trust me. There was nothing in that store so important/urgent that they needed to be there super early/late.

      • Anon November 24, 2015, 1:25 pm

        When I worked at a grocery store we also had entrance and exit stores.

        Guess what late “customers” did when the entrance doors were locked? Use the exit door (since they were automatic.

        Leave one door open at all and rude “customer” will find a way.

      • CJ November 24, 2015, 1:36 pm

        Oh retail. Working for a corporate company you could get in trouble no matter what you do. We were not allowed to have customers in the store after closing time. We also were not allowed to turn away people as we were closing. We could not close the doors with anyone still in there and more people would trickle in because you are the last store in the mall not to be closed. Our time log of the after hours sales would get us in trouble while a customer complaint would get you written up as well. As management I had a half hour after the store was closed to get everything clean (you could not start cleaning prior to mall close by both corporate rules and mall rules) and the books done, district manager reported to, registers balanced out along with the deposit (we used a work sheet and adding paper for all). If you ran over that 30 mins you would get in trouble and oh if you were off on your registers by 10 cents you had to file a report as well. It is hellish for employees. I made it through black Friday and promised myself never again.

        • just4kicks November 24, 2015, 11:10 pm

          I got in trouble working at Target once for holding a lost little girls hand while I tried to find her mom.
          True story.

      • NostalgicGal November 30, 2015, 2:35 am

        I lived on a major street in a major city that had two businesses downstairs, and four unit upstairs. New owner had a pawn shop and dealt in everything but firearms; his choice. He still had two units; and he treated his renters well, he fixed thing and he said he if he wouldn’t live in it he didn’t expect his tenants to either. Victorian height lower floors so a landing halfways up the steps. At the top he had a locking passdoor. If you lived there you could get past it. There were also six doorbells, one for each downstairs and one for each of the former upstairs units. He took over the front two apartments, where the door in to the shop was, he had a pass through with bulletproof glass and he put three solid inches of plywood on the apartment door side (someone wanted to fire it wasn’t coming through) and drywalled over it. He’d deal with you there, or buzz you into the main shop. People wanted him to open early in the morning or reopen after closing hours. One Saturday morning three dudes started on all the bells about 8:30 and about breaking the front door wanting him to open up. I finally stuck my head over the landing and they wanted IN the building LET THEM IN. I said he doesn’t open until 10 and I’m not letting them in; go away and get off my door buzzer already. The one guy almost broke the glass. I ducked in my apartment (they’re laying on my buzzer solid,) dialed 911 and said there are three guys trying to break into my building. They called the owner who showed at the door (I could tell he had his vest on and wearing his concealed) and they DEMANDED, the bitch upstairs wouldn’t let them in and open up for them. Police showed. All three got hauled for disturbing the peace, threatening me, threatening him, and attempted breaking and entering. He said the ones acting like that usually want to rob the place. The same for the ones that arrived 10 min after he closed down demanding he open back up and serve them. I was worried because I called 911 and they would always call the building owner, and he said that is why I have a couple of apartments in this building, and put the mesh imbedded door and other things in place. You hear something at 3 am, call. He’ll always be glad to come down at any hour. He considered tenants extra deterrent to being robbed, and in return he did take good care of us (and I will say for that area the rent was CHEAP. In two years I had four incidents but those three men were by far the worst.

    • abby November 24, 2015, 10:24 am

      I used to work at a restaurant, and people would come in just before closing. We still had to politely serve them, which wouldn’t have been so bad except the cooks had already started on the clean up process. While we were allowed to lock the door after closing time, if someone was coming up to the door just as we were about to lock it, even if it was after our closing time, we still had to let them in. And it seemed like those same people generally wanted the most complicated item that would ensure the most dirty dishes/utensils to prepare. It’s just that world. I don’t miss it.

    • Michelle November 24, 2015, 10:31 am

      I’m replying to say that I do kind of feel bad for the guy, but folks like him seem to think they should never be inconvenienced, but would have no problem inconveniencing the clerk by having her restart the pumps, wait for everything to sync, etc. When he didn’t get what he wanted, he had no problem venting his frustration by gunning his engine and squealing out of the parking lot. Which probably used quite a bit of fuel.

      • Calli Arcale November 24, 2015, 2:43 pm

        As a software engineer, I have to find myself wondering how the system handled his credit card transaction. Was he billed properly for the gas that he pumped, since he was obviously using the pay-at-pump system? Does the system tidily clean itself up as it is shut down? I would *hope* so, but I don’t know. I’ve seen enough naively-implemented enterprise systems to be wary.

    • Devin November 24, 2015, 10:39 am

      Or closing the door at 10:02 only to have a customer tell you that “their phone says its only 9:59, and the customer’s always right”. Then proceed to leisurely browse till the manager finally says the registers are closing.

    • GeenaG November 24, 2015, 12:02 pm

      They probably do think your have a life, plan and responsibilities outside of your job. The thing is they just don’t care.

      • stacey November 24, 2015, 6:05 pm

        It’s the culture of the place where you work. Employees should be able to close at closing time. If you are in retail, you hear “our store will be closing in fifteen minutes, bring your items to the register” and even “our store is now closed”. In a restaurant, you can stop seating fifteen minutes before closing if you have signage. If not, not much can be done. If you have a smaller store, you have to have clarity about what is accepted and what is unacceptable before knowing how to proceed. I’d do a short announcement, ring out the last clients in line, and tell anyone still browsing they’d have to return to shop “when we are open”. You aren’t obligated to attend to every special snowflake out there. The trick is to distinguish between a customer who is being difficult and taking advantage of the situation and one who has haplessly fallen between the cracks of your establishment’s processes. It’s a critical skill just for your own peace of mind. (As is knowing how management will expect the rules to apply in each situation… if you haven’t got the backing of management to shoo tardy customers out, then it’s obvious that you either accept it, agitate for a policy change or change jobs. Getting frustrated over the injustice of it is understandable, but does nothing to prevent a recurrence.)

        • Huh November 25, 2015, 9:24 am

          Yeah at my place, we weren’t allowed to make announcements or anything. The most you could do is start turning off the music/back half of the lights. We weren’t allowed to shoo them out or anything. If they got in, you had to wait until they were ready to leave.

    • DoubleYou November 25, 2015, 4:57 am

      In my experience over here in Belgium, many shops – and nearly all supermarkets – stop letting customers in 5 to 10 minutes before closing time, and staff will nearly always start informing the remaining customers that the store is about to close, and will start directing them to the tills or the exit.
      To prevent new customers from entering, many places (especially supermarkets) simply lock their doors 10 minutes before closing, with one employee stationed at the last remaining door to open it up to let the last customers out.
      Yes, it can be frustrating for customers arriving at 7.50 and not be allowed in as the store closes at 8… and I have been one of these customers on occasion, but on the other hand: why should the employees have to work overtime for lack of planning on the customers’ part?

    • NostalgicGal November 28, 2015, 2:05 pm

      A smallmall a block away from where we lived (had three spaced businesses on the street, lots of parking behind and a strip of stores behind that…..) fellow had a fish and acquatic store. He cared about the place, he put in the effort, he had some really neat stuff. He decided his 16-20 year old sons (who mostly had the ambition of a mop) would be hired to work there and he would at times leave on out of town business (like a store to store delivery) and leave them there in charge. They’d lock the doors because it was a nice afternoon and wash and buffwax their hotrods instead and don’t even think of wanting to go in the door and buy something. They really ticked off the receptionist at a doctor I went to, they wanted a several thousand dollar tank set up with saltwater and the kid locked the door for lunch in her face and was rude when she came back. I tried on that one to talk to dad on her behalf and he said no way and I gave him the business card to call. Shortly after I had spent good part of a day doing a home setup (with quarantine provisions), and went in about 45 min before close to select half a dozen fish. They’d been eyed in the last few days and this was mostly net, bag, and buy. I step in the front door, move to the first tank, and all the lights go out. I scream HEY! and the fellow came up all ugly and aggressive because I wanted to buy $300 of fish 45 min before closing and I knew what I wanted, and he wanted to go out with his friends. Then with uglitude as it was plenty of time before closing, he goes okay (bitch), what do you want? I said I’ll come back tomorrow. Instead I drove to the owner’s house, told him what happened. He and I drove back to a locked up store still like 10 min before closing time. Next morning DAD opened, asked me what I came in for and gave me the six fish (I tried to pay). Later that day heads rolled. Not one of his three sons could understand why dad fired them ALL and shortly after found someone that truly wanted to do that for a living and sold the store.

      Other side of coin but still aggrevating, walk into a store and not at 3 seconds to closing with $ in your pocket and wanting to purchase and getting treated like you’re a major inconvenience to someone else’s life. He spent four years busting his to build that store and in two months his sons zorched it up.

    • Rebecca December 15, 2015, 2:38 am

      I did read the story and think “how was the guy supposed to know the station was closed when all the lights were on and the pumps appeared to be working?”

      But I do understand the whole closing thing. My first job in a store, we closed at 6 and we were paid till 6, and if some customer kept us there till 6:30 we were not paid that half hour. There were a ton of regulars too, who knew what time we closed but they’d been having fun all day at the beach (I worked Sundays, and it was usually pretty obvious when it was an emergency as opposed to a lack of planning) and would get mad at us if they came too late and couldn’t buy their magazine or lotto ticket or candy bar. They would rattle the doors, sneak in through the exit doors as other customers were leaving. etc. It really was a battle to be allowed to leave. The lack of respect for my time and that I’d been standing for 8 and a half hours already for minimum wage really angered me.

  • just4kicks November 24, 2015, 8:47 am

    Good for you, OP!

    I used to work at a gas station and if I had a nickel for everyone who would pull up with the pumps (not to mention all the lights) off, I could retire to a sunny island.
    I don’t know if it’s true or not, but after a very intense “stand off” one night with a very pissed off and scary man in which I called the police, was told by my manager that once you turn the pumps off it takes a good ten or fifteen minutes for everything to upload and sync with the computer programs.

    I have so many stories from my time working there, people seem to think just because you work at a gas station, you are a moron.

  • Crazy Chicken Lady November 24, 2015, 9:01 am

    Honestly, both parties come off as being rude. The customer was no doubt rude, but the OP seemed almost gleeful about telling the customer “Sorry, sir, but lack of planning on your part is not an emergency on mine”. That may be true, but simple repeating that the pumps cannot be turned back on would have been enough. I think it’s a good phrase, but there is a time and place to use it. This doesn’t seem to be one of those times.

    It may be worth suggesting to your manager or store owner that the store put a sign by the pumps clearly showing the store hours and the store’s policy about shutting off pumps.

    • ColoradoCloudy November 24, 2015, 9:45 am

      I agree. The phrase is useful, but maybe more in social situations than in a customer/vendor situation. OP was rude in her response. She could have just repeated that she was sorry, the pumps were off, and she could not turn them back on that night.

      • Anon November 24, 2015, 1:26 pm

        “That may be true, but simple repeating that the pumps cannot be turned back on would have been enough.”

        You haven’t worked in retail that often have you? I don’t necessarily agree with OP, but some customers demand special treatment from those who can’t do anything.

        • ColoradoCloudy November 25, 2015, 11:38 am

          I have worked in retail for years and years. I know how crappy the general public can be, but I also know not to antagonize a customer who is already upset. The OP saying that she couldn’t turn the pumps back on probably wouldn’t have made the customer happy and satisfied, but at least would have been polite and truthful. What she did say was guaranteed to make him angry. Also having been a manager in retail, I have experienced the customer who was treated rudely by an employee the day before, has been stewing over it all night, and shows up the next day to ream me for the employee’s actions.

          OP was right to not turn the pumps back on, but was wrong to make the remark about lack of planning.

        • Crazy Chicken Lady November 25, 2015, 12:01 pm

          Actually I have worked retail before and have dealt with special snowflake customers. I have also dealt with some pretty condescending and outright rude clerks as a customer. By “would have been enough”, I didn’t imply that he would have walked away happily or have even understood. The OP risked escalating the situation by her remark about his “lack of planning”.

    • Hollyhock November 24, 2015, 1:49 pm

      And sometimes running out of fuel isn’t indicative of “lack of planning.” I’m sure all of us have burned more gasoline than anticipated due to idling in an unexpected traffic jam, or errands taking longer (more travel) than expected, or being unable to get out of the office at lunchtime as planned, to fuel up.

      There are many non-jerkish reasons to be “on fumes” and I agree with others that the OP’s smug and non-empathetic retort to him was uncalled for. Many gas stations are 24-hour operations now and I don’t have a mental list of which are and which are not, especially if I am distressed or distracted.

  • Wild Irish Rose November 24, 2015, 9:41 am

    I agree with those who think both parties were rude. My husband worked at a gas station when he was in college. He had a similar situation: he had turned off the pumps and was preparing to close when he saw a guy actually pushing his car into the station lot; he had already run out of gas. Although DH had already turned off the pumps, he turned them back on so this dude wouldn’t be stranded late at night with no gas. It’s called “compassion,” and if you do it right, you reap big rewards.

    OP, the statement you made about lack of planning and emergencies was not only rude, it was snarky and uncalled for. If the lights of the station were still on, then it was perfectly reasonable for the man to think he could still get gas there. I don’t know about the credit card issue, but you could have been kinder to him. It’s not hard to find yourself in his situation, and I certainly hope it never happens to you, but if it does I hope the gas station attendant is a littler nicer about it.

    • Carolyn November 24, 2015, 4:20 pm

      Well said! I agree completely. OP, if you think passive aggressive snipes and smarmy smiles are what constitute a polite spine, you may have missed the point entirely.

      Sometimes it’s not a failure to plan – sometimes its a plan doomed from the start. This happens and I hope that WHEN something like this happens to you, the person you meet up with shows a little compassion.

      2 weekends ago I went to my sister’s new house – a good hour and a half drive to a place I am unfamiliar with. I hit unexpected traffic and detours, got turned around a few time and noticed I was getting low on fuel only as I was getting very close to her house. Since it seemed I was passing gas stations at every intersection, I figured I would keep going so I could at least spend a little time helping her get ready and get gas on the way home. In my area of the state, it’s odd to find gas stations that are NOT open 24/7 … and its not like my sister lives in the middle of nowhere … but not a single one of those gas stations was open when I left! I got on the highway and as soon as I merged, the low fuel light came on. Ugh.

      I took the first exit I saw that had a sign for a gas station … only to find it closed. This is about 10:15pm on a Saturday night – not the middle of the night! I was starting to get nervous – I was pretty sure that I could probably coast into familiar territory on fumes and find a gas station in the nick of time, but that is not Plan A!!! I take the next exit with a sign for gas, and as soon as I get to the bottom of the ramp I see that the gas station is 3 miles away … I am on a 2 lane road with no lights and I just keep driving and driving and driving and finally get there just as I became convinced it was an old sign someone forgot to take down. I didn’t believe I was actually going to be okay until the pump started!

      If I had arrived to an open pump that had accepted my card and had let me begin fueling, I would have been shocked to have it suddenly shut off! If you had come out and said “I had checked before I shut off the pumps, it seems that was just before you pulled in. It’s not possible for me to turn the pumps back on, but I can give you directions to the next station” I may not have been happy, but I wouldn’t flip out. But if you had smirked and snarked at me like that when I was nervous and upset from wondering if I would ever find gas, I would be quite upset.

      I have worked retail, I have worked in restaurants and I currently manage customer service reps so this is not lack of perspective on my part – we only have the OPs assurances that the motorist was rude, but the OPs own words prove the OP was rude.

  • AnaMaria November 24, 2015, 9:54 am

    To anyone saying the OP was rude, are you the same people who breeze into the store at 8:58 knowing the store closes at 9:00, and make the store staff stay and wait while you have your “personal shopping time?” The OP says the man was rude and demanding- if you’ve ever worked customer service before, people who come in yelling and demanding things are NOT going to cooperate with your alternative suggestions. They are on a power trip, and they want you to give in to their demands so they can be “right.” Clearly, the man was lying about being on fumes or he wouldn’t have dramatically gunned it out of the parking lot.

    Also, does OP mention their gender or age? If the OP isn’t a big person and especially if they are a woman, than an angry customer could be a threat to their safety. It is well within their rights to focus on getting the “customer” to leave. If management has a problem with that, then they need to have two people there at closing time.

    • Tracy P November 24, 2015, 1:01 pm

      “Also, does OP mention their gender or age? If the OP isn’t a big person and especially if they are a woman, than an angry customer could be a threat to their safety.”

      So if an angry customer is a possible threat to the OP, then why was the OP deliberately provoking them with the line about lack of planning? Seems rather stupid to make an angry customer.

      • AnaMaria November 24, 2015, 8:51 pm

        So standing up for yourself is provoking someone?

        • Airelenaren November 24, 2015, 9:48 pm

          If by “standing up for yourself” you mean making passive aggressive comments at an already furious and potentially threatening person, then yes. Yes, that is provoking someone,. and it can be quite dangerous. There are much better and safer ways to stand up for yourself, and sometimes, it may be better just not to engage.

        • InTheEther November 24, 2015, 10:40 pm

          As an admitted smartass, OP was being one. She essentially said ‘sucks to be you’. It wasn’t even disguised that well. And again, this is coming from someone who has literally said “sucks to be you” to someone (not a customer) when the person just would not take “can’t help you” as an answer or let me walk away from the conversation.

          I’m half on OP’s side, but she does seem a little over-pleased to have gotten to “politely” tell off a customer. It IS possible to stand up for yourself without being agitating.

    • Airelenaren November 24, 2015, 1:08 pm

      But if the op felt threatened by the man, wouldn’t that have been even more reason to not provoke him?

      Also, please don’t assume that everybody who disagrees with your point of view must be a self-focussed jerk. (This is in reply to your opening statement.)

    • abby November 24, 2015, 1:11 pm

      No one has suggested that the OP give in to this guy’s demands. They have merely said OP should have been more polite in the refusal to turn the pumps back on. The comment that poor planning on his part is not OP’s problem is unnecessarily confrontational and probably escalated his anger (which as Tracy P pointed out, was a poor and dangerous idea, if he/she was alone).

    • iwadasn November 24, 2015, 1:45 pm

      I don’t think it’s overly demanding to think that if the machine accepts your credit card and allows you to begin pumping gas, then you should be able to finish your transaction. A better analogy than walking into a store two minutes before closing and demanding to be served is if the employee allowed you to go in the store, waited for you to get your items, and started checking out your items, and then suddenly turned off the cash register in the middle of the transaction and told you to leave.

    • A different Tracy November 24, 2015, 2:08 pm

      Yes, I’ve worked retail, and I’ve had people breeze into the store right before it closed. Those people were ignoring the posted hours on the door they walked through. However, I’ve never seen a gas station that lists its operating hours on the pump. You have to go to the door to see that. There’s absolutely no reason to presume he knew he was there at the last minute.

      And if the OP was worried about safety, snarking off at the guy wasn’t a very good idea.

      • Ulla November 25, 2015, 5:39 am

        I think I have never seen a gas station that would close it’s pumps for night if they have option to pay at the pump. So even if I would see a posted hours, I’d likely assume they just mean the “inside part”. What ever that gas station has, snack store or car stuff store, or fast food. But not the pumps.

        Not to say such don’t exists, just that I’ve never encountered one. Likely this strongly depends on locations. Just that if one comes from all 24/7 pumps, the thought of pumps being closed while you are making purchase is really alien and it migth even take a moment to realize that it was not done “just because” but as part of nightly procedure. Not a reason to be rude, of course, customer in this case was of course rude (and likely knew that on that area some pumps close for night). But I do agree that OP’s comment was bit too escalating for my taste.

    • lakey November 24, 2015, 2:11 pm

      “To anyone saying the OP was rude, are you the same people who breeze into the store at 8:58 knowing the store closes at 9:00, and make the store staff stay and wait while you have your “personal shopping time?” ”

      No, but I am someone who worked as a waitress and had to deal with people who came in to order food 2 minutes before closing, and with customers who were just unreasonable or demanding. It’s hard, but it’s part of the service industry. You have to accommodate customers who come in at the last minute. You have to be polite to customers who are in a bad mood. You don’t make the comment,“Sorry, sir, but lack of planning on your part is not an emergency on mine. I cannot restart the system once it has been shut down for the night.” It only makes the customer angrier.
      You say, “Sorry, but once the system is turned off, I’m not able to turn it back on,” and just leave it at that.
      If he continues to be angry, there’s nothing you can do, and there is no point in continuing the conversation. When people are angry, and can’t be reasoned with, it is better to let them vent.

      • Yet Another Laura November 25, 2015, 7:54 am

        “If he continues to be angry, there’s nothing you can do, and there is no point in continuing the conversation. When people are angry, and can’t be reasoned with, it is better to let them vent.”

        Yes! Having worked tech support, I’ve found that if you interrupt a tirade, the ranter will start over from the beginning and add more. The best defense was to hold the phone away from your ear and wait for a longish pause.

        Oh, and if any of us ever used a phrase like the original poster used, we’d get written up for it. The calls were recorded.

    • shhh its me November 24, 2015, 2:30 pm

      I think we’re saying two thing ….
      Saying “A lack of planning on your part ……….” calmed down NO irate customer ever.
      More importantly , if some of us are reading it correctly. The customer pulled into a station with the lights on and had the purchase authorized on his debit/credit card, then everything was turned off. We have no idea how long it between when LW can see the pumps till she turns them off , I find the wording a little odd “At some point while I was doing…” VS ” in the 15 seconds/minute from when I walked from the counter to the back room. It’s vague enough to allow for the possibility , “I was doing things to close and I didn’t look to make sure no one had started a transaction before turning off the pumps.” Its also a little unclear how long he was stuck out there, trying to get the gas he “paid” for.

    • Ergala November 24, 2015, 2:51 pm

      Actually I choose to not respond to people with instant snark. I worked retail for several years and I learned when to use a steel spine and when to smother the situation with honey. Never would I simply do what the OP did. I would have started out the whole thing with “I’m sorry but we’re closed however if you go there is another gas station that is open”. Typically showing you’re a human being and understand the other person is one too will get you a LOT better of a reaction than telling them tough crap pretty much.

    • Shoegal November 24, 2015, 2:52 pm

      On the flip side I have walked into a store at 5 minutes before closing time with the knowledge that my transaction won’t take but a minute – grabbed my item went up to the clerk to be told they already closed out their drawer. I really do understand that the clerks want to close up and go home when it is quitting time not 10 minutes later but there is also this disconnect between when an establishment truly closes, let’s say at 9pm and not 5 minutes before. What is the sense of having a closing time when all the employees have counted their drawers and have their coats in hand? I think the store should close at 9pm and the employees understand their quitting time to be 9:15 but it seems as if the time of closing up/ cleaning/ paperwork etc is being done during the store’s “Open” time. Either that – or close the store at 8:45.

    • JS November 24, 2015, 3:04 pm

      Even if the customer was rude, there’s no reason for OP to be rude in return.

    • Rattus November 24, 2015, 3:07 pm

      It is absolutely unreasonable to start one’s shopping at 8:58 given that most stores close at 9:00, however it is completely reasonable to assume that a gas station is open if its lights are on since many of them operate 24 hours a day.

    • sweetonsno November 24, 2015, 4:05 pm

      “To anyone saying the OP was rude, are you the same people who breeze into the store at 8:58 knowing the store closes at 9:00, and make the store staff stay and wait while you have your ‘personal shopping time?’ ”

      Utterly uncalled for. One does not need to be entitled to think that calling a customer incompetent to his face is bad customer service, nor does one need to be entitled to think that making it clear that someone enjoy saying “no” to a customer in need is rather nasty. I agree with the other posters… the OP sounds a little bit too smug.

      Having a shiny spine does not require twisting the knife when one has to deliver bad news. Not at all.

      Also, I agree with previous posters who say that the setup is a problem. If the lights are on and the credit card is accepted, it is perfectly reasonable for a customer to expect that they can get gas. This wasn’t a lack of planning on the customer’s part; this is a system that isn’t clear to customers.

    • Devil's Advocate November 24, 2015, 4:39 pm

      “To anyone saying the OP was rude, are you the same people who breeze into the store at 8:58 knowing the store closes at 9:00.”

      Lights are on and the gas pump is working…how in the world was this man to know that they were closing?

      I disagree with the way OP handled this wholeheartedly. The guy, or so he says, is on fumes. Sounds like an area without a lot of gas stations. Sounds like she shut him off in the middle of pumping. I would have been furious. Then she goats him. Him “gunning” the car doesn’t mean he isn’t on fumes—just meant that OP clearly got her intended reaction–a made customer that without any prior knowledge on his part, was making her late.

      AnaMaria–let me toss a generalized stereotype back to you. You sound like one of those retail workers who knows the store stays open until 9:00 p.m. but is already closing up at 8:15. That when I walk in at 8:15 I get the glare and NO customer service. Each coin has two sides.

      OP was rude, that man was retaliatory rude in response. Neither party comes out smelling like a rose, but the man doesn’t have his job to worry about.

    • SC November 24, 2015, 4:42 pm

      I think the OP was rude, and the customer was rude in response. With the lights and pumps on, and probably no hours posted on the pumps, the customer started a transaction, and OP cut them off in the middle of it.

      I’ve always done my best to respect any posted business hours, but when a business has its lights on & door open, I’m going to assume that it’s reasonable to go in for a quick (5 minutes or less) transaction, such as grabbing pet food or getting gas. If I’m doing something that will take longer (getting food, doing my weekly grocery shopping, or clothes shopping), and it’s near a normal closing time, I’ll make more of an effort to check the hours.

    • Willynilly November 24, 2015, 5:48 pm

      The man didn’t breeze in and take his time. He pulled up to a tank and swiped his credit card promptly if it happened without time for the OP to notice. And he likely had no idea it was “closing time” as many has stations are 24 hour, and even those that aren’t are generally open late.

      As for gender and size – men are assaulted and mugged too. This man is at a gas station at night and suddenly the lights are clicked off. He was in a vulnerable position himself and some of his anger could have been adrenaline fueled.

    • Dugzma November 24, 2015, 5:48 pm

      Respectfully, with the information given, I am one of those who thinks the OP comes off a bit rude. Your analogy of people coming in just before what they know to be closing time is a fair one. I’d hate to be the clerk stuck catering to someone who appears not to give a flying fig about you or your time. However, I think OP’s situation is a bit unique in that the guy likely had no idea that it was closing time.

      I live in a small town myself, and I know that our little gas station closes early. Exactly what time does it close? Couldn’t tell you. I’m sure that the station house has the hours of operation listed on the door, but it is not very close to the pumps. As I always pay at the pump with a card, I’ve never actually walked up to the station house. So, if I were to pull in and see that the lights and the pumps were on, I’d make the assumption that the station was open and would start pumping gas. Now, if the pump were to turn off while I was doing that, I would want to know what the heck happened. I would talk to the clerk. I might be disappointed with what the clerk told me, but there is no way that I would become belligerent and start harassing him/her. Here is where the guy went wrong…it was wrong, and rude of him to verbally attack the OP when the rules are the rules.

      If the OP had stopped at simply saying that the system couldn’t be restarted, there would be absolutely nothing rude about the response. But throwing in the bit about ‘you planned this one poorly, not my problem’ is just…adding fuel to rude man’s fire. What he planned poorly was showing up at the wrong time…but, if he had no prior knowledge of the closing time, was it poor planning to assume that a well lit station with the pumps on was closed? Absolutely not. And saying that his misfortune/poor planning was not an emergency, in a way, carries the implication that emergencies do happen and the pumps can be turned back on, but you just don’t want to. Not fair, not fair at all…but best not to snark back at someone who has already shown poor judgement in attacking you for something out of your control.

    • Miss-E November 25, 2015, 9:59 am

      I worked in retail through high school, college and afterward. Most of the time I totally hated it and had hours worth of annoying customer stories. One of my biggest pet peeves was people walking into my grocery store two minutes before closing and hanging out for half an hour.

      That said, I’m with all the people who say the OP was rude. Yes, the customer was rude too and I don’t think the OP was obligated to turn the pumps back on or anything but that polite spine line is not appropriate for customer service. I’ve had conversations exactly like that – people showing up after the registers were shut down wanting to buy things and explaining over and over that it wasn’t possible while they just got angrier and angrier but you simply can’t say something like that to a customer. It is incredibly rude.

  • JWH November 24, 2015, 10:13 am

    I don’t think this is polite at all. Rather, OP strikes me as high-handed and a spiteful. The line about “lack of planning on your part” might be true, but it also comes across as snide and disrespectful. Yes, the customer was rude. But OP could have handled this with more grace.

  • abby November 24, 2015, 10:21 am

    This isn’t really a very good system at all. So, a customer sees that the lights are on, pulls in, has his credit card accepted, and then the lights go out and he can’t get any fuel? And the gas station worker can’t see if there’s anyone in the middle of a transaction when the pumps are being shut off? At least if there was a second person there, that person could use the intercom to tell the customer that the pumps had already been shut off for the night BEFORE he or she has already run the credit card and pulled out the nozzle. Or maybe a security camera in the breaker room so you can see if someone is out there? While he was rude, I don’t blame him for being frustrated.

    At bare minimum, I hope this gas station has a prominent signing saying that the pumps will be turned off at X o’clock, no exceptions, and the workers do not have the ability to override this rule.

    I also agree that this is less of a polite spine and more of matching rudeness with rudeness. A simple, I’m sorry, I’m not able to see the pumps from where I have to turn off the gas, and it’s store policy that we shut them off at time X, and I honestly can’t turn them back on. There is an open gas station just a few miles south of here, would have been much more polite, I think.

    • Anon November 24, 2015, 1:27 pm

      It’s weird. Only one station attendant is asking for either a robbery or some sort of vandalism.

      • abby November 25, 2015, 8:45 am

        Or worse. I don’t think that’s a safe practice at all, having only person closing up the shop, particularly if this is a remote area or an area where all other businesses are closed.

      • Cami November 28, 2015, 10:20 am

        Agreed. I’ve never worked retail (and yes, I’ve worked retail since I was 16 years old, so that means decades at this point) and not had a two person rule.

        The current store at which I work has, in fact, a corporate rule that the store cannot be open with only one employee. Period. No exceptions, ever. Further, in fact, our shopping area landlord has the same rule — no store can be open with only one employee on site. We are not even allowed to run out to get a drink/sandwich at the sub shop next door. It’s about safety and of course, corporate liability.

  • Lara November 24, 2015, 10:38 am

    I’m not sure that the “my personal emergency” line was really relevant here, as the issue was not your time and convenience so much as it was store policy and the way the pumps work. Seeing as he was a customer you presumably want to come back, you as a representative of your employers should have just politely apologized for the inconvenience, repeated that there was nothing you could do about it now, and given him those directions to the next gas station. Saying what you did makes it sound as if you were happy you didn’t have to be bothered to help him and was a kind of “so what” that doesn’t seem professional to me.

  • Melissa November 24, 2015, 10:40 am

    Eh, I’d be pretty irritated if I was in the middle of putting gas and everything shut down on me without warning. I’m actually surprised that there are gas stations that close pumps at night…

    I think OP had a spine, but not a polite one. I would have been a bit nicer and directed him to a new gas station. Also, there has to be a better way to inform people that the gas pumps are going to be shut off while they are in the middle of filling their tank.

  • Dyan November 24, 2015, 10:52 am

    what I am reading is they shut the lights off BEFORE this guy showed up…
    AND good for you!!!!
    everyone should work with the public in their lifetime to see how stupid and nasty some people can be..
    LIKE I said GOOD FOR YOU!!!

    • Tracy P November 25, 2015, 8:06 am

      Then you must be reading a different story. The OP states the breaker for the lights and the pumps is in the back room. So if the pump was still on, the lights were still on too.

      So imagine you are running on fumes, you show up to a lit up gas station that most likely does not have a closing time listed on the pump (as others have said, it might be on the door, but why would you go look at that if you are pre-paying at the pump). Your card goes through and you might have even started to pump when everything shuts down. Now you’re left wondering what charge might show up on your credit card and if you can make it to anywhere.

      The customer is a jerk, but to be a jerk back to him? How is that good? It just shows that the OP is as nasty as he is.

    • Miss-E November 25, 2015, 10:14 am

      While I don’t disagree that this guy was being rude, using a line like that in most retail jobs would get you written up in an instant.

      I worked in retail for years and years and I know how awful people can be but when it’s your job you have to hold your tongue. I really think that line is meant more for personal situations, not work situations.

      • shhh its me November 25, 2015, 4:44 pm

        After re-reading the OP I’m not even sure he was rude.

        If I swiped my card and it authorized and then the lights went off, I would have knocked on the door too. If the clerk said “Pumps are off its not possible to turn them back on.” I would have asked “How could you turn them off while I was in the middle of a transaction? Don’t you check if someone has started first?” , “That’s not possible” , “HUH? what do you mean its not possible. You have my money(I stand by once authorized the gas station has the money) . I have no gas, *thinks to self ok this makes no sense. Did this go though on my card , how long wont my money be available to me when they shut the pumps down in the middle of the transaction? but maybe a compassionate appeal will work were logic didn’t**listen I’m on fumes, please. “A failure to plan ….”

        What I think next I can’t repeat here.

  • Lady Anne November 24, 2015, 11:05 am

    I have the feeling that the customer was the sort of person who believes that he is naturally better than everybody else, and no matter what OP said he would have pitched a fit. Some people think the world revolves around them – when, quite obviously, it revolves around me. 😉

    • lakey November 24, 2015, 2:59 pm

      I don’t think it’s usually a matter of customers thinking they’re better than everyone else, so much as many people are over-worked, strapped for time, and stressed out. Therefore, when they go into a store, gas station, or restaurant, they get overly upset when things don’t go well. It’s better to not react to their anger or irritability. A simple “I’m sorry, I’m not able to do that,” is a better response. Pointing out that it is their fault, will only make them angrier.

      There are some people who look down on people in the service industry, but most people are just stretched thin and frustrated.

      • stacey November 26, 2015, 1:03 am

        Lakey- I think you’ve hit the nail squarely on the head! A business can prevent its employees from being taken advantage of by customers by being mindful and consistent about policies. People are very much creatures of habit. For example- I know not to try to go through the drive-through at my local coffee shop after 9:50 pm. Not even worth the discussion. They will block the drive-through with chairs, although the hour they actually close is 10 pm. They are consistent in how they do things. Do I agree with 9:50 is IT for coffee, the proverbial “last call”? No. But I can live with a predicable outcome. If I was already in the drive-through line to have an order taken, however, and the lights went out and the speaker for the drive-through went off… I’d be miffed.

  • Meeples November 24, 2015, 11:09 am

    It seems like there’s a gap where the OP is heading toward the back room and doing the necessary steps to shut down the pumps but a customer could still pull up and start pumping gas before the pumps shut off. Unfortunately, this customer fell squarely into that gap. I’m not sure I’d blame him for being frustrated. But, it seems to me that growing a polite spine doesn’t mean using it to gloat at another’s misfortune, because it does seem to me that the customer fell right into that gap. Would it be better if the outdoor lights were turned off before the pumps so that the gas station looked closed when people pulled up.

    I do sympathize with the OP. I worked as a bank teller on the drive-in window during college, and I attended college in the misty reaches of time before ATMs were introduced and you had to go the bank to do all your banking. If the drive-in window was closed, you had to wait till the bank re-opened the next day to get cash. I would be in the bank balancing my drawer and doing all the other end-of-day activities (including alarming the vaults) and hear people furiously pounding on the glass at the drive-in window because they were late and wanted me to re-open. More than once I called the police to escort me to my car because an unhappy customer wouldn’t leave the parking lot (as another poster mentioned).

  • Otter November 24, 2015, 11:22 am

    Yes, a sign by the pumps stating they are shut off precisely at “X” hour and they cannot be turned on until the next morning would save everyone a lot of grief. Next time lead with “sorry” and the directions to the next station.

  • Willynilly November 24, 2015, 11:34 am

    I have to say I agree with other posters that I don’t think this was a “polite” spine moment.

    I was driving for several years before driving across several states and learning that gas stations close – in my area (a metro area) gas stations are 24 hours. I am still not used to the idea decades later. And with almost 25 years and over a dozen states driving experience I still find extreme regional differences in where one should look for gas stations.

    If I pulled into a gas station with its lights on, and was able to swipe my credit card at the pump, only to then have the power switched off suddenly I would be upset… and probably a bit frightened. I wouldn’t immediately understand what happened or why, and I might be nervous about finding another station. And my voice might convey that upset and fear when I found an employee; I would hope to be greeted with positive customer service, not smug admonition.

  • shhh its me November 24, 2015, 11:34 am

    If I understand correctly he already paid for his gas. Some debit cards instantly put $75 on hold when they are swiped at a gas station and then change it to the actual amount when the station reports back. The vast majority of the time , the right amount is charged before I get home , a few times the $75 is charged for a couple hours very rarely the $75 is “on hold and not available” for days. The charge is authorized first then the pump opens. This is the same as going into a store paying for your purchases and then being told we’re closed I can’t give you your purchased, we will cancel the transaction with your bank, I’m sure they will make your funds available to you soon. I can understand a customer being furious. I can completely sympathize with not understand how a person can start a transaction ,( which is a pay first transaction) and have it cut off in the middle. It’s a ridiculous system. Especially if all the lights were on when he arrived.

    Reopen because I’m out of gas = not reasonable and “A failure to plan….”

    Reopen because I have already paid = completely reasonable request and “I am so so sorry, I did not see you there. You must have pulled in the the 5 seconds it takes me to get to the breaker. Let me try to fix it.”

    • Mary November 24, 2015, 1:21 pm

      Exactly the right response.

    • Anon November 24, 2015, 1:30 pm

      Reminds me of when I couldn’t pump gas because I “didn’t have enough in my checking account” and they said it was $75.

      I knew I had over $100, went somewhere else, checked online what my account was, and it was over $150 (everything was already taken out that was pending, so it was $150, not less).

      They really need to have a sign up for how much pumps need as a minimum.

  • Karalee November 24, 2015, 11:39 am

    If we used that line on every customer who needed a last minute product, we’d be out of business. Service is everything.

  • Emma Lee November 24, 2015, 12:01 pm

    OP – I would never purposely provoke a stranger in this situation. I’m glad that nothing happened that was worse then an angry man peeling out of the parking lot, but this is scary. Like someone mentioned earlier in the comments, I would have been apologetic and explained that you can’t turn the pumps back on once you have turned them off. Then I would have explained where the other gas station is and apologized again for the inconvenience.

    In addition, it wasn’t clear from the story, but how long does it take to get from the front building of the gas station to the pumps? It seems that you would want to minimize that time as much as possible in order to avoid this exact situation.

    Etiquette isn’t something to “win” by having a snappy comeback, especially involving angry strangers at a deserted and closed gas station late at night. Rather than trying to use a clever line, if you are being threatened, you call the police. Otherwise, try to defuse it and move on, and that often means an apology, even if you haven’t done anything wrong.

  • Becca November 24, 2015, 12:20 pm

    Wow, I guess you have never ran out of gas…

    He was extremely aggressive and rude, so no need to go above and beyond by any means but it’s no where near polite or reasonable to use that phrase to him. You snarked him while he was angry, I won’t congratulate you for it.

    Also what a bizarre system where you can’t use the same card twice. What if you have two rigs and one family card or you guess $10 will do for now but you need more later that day? That system sounds set up so you can’t double charge a card and projects the company from charge backs, it really screws a customer in many ways.

    All these add up to everyone in this story failing.

    • iwadasn November 24, 2015, 1:41 pm

      It might be to prevent credit card fraud. I once had a friend whose credit card got stolen, which she found out when the credit card company notified her of suspicious activity because the card had been used to fill up multiple cars at the same gas station. I’m guessing the thief and a group of his friends all went to get as much free gas as they could.

      • NostalgicGal November 28, 2015, 2:29 pm

        And one convenience store chain gas station, for some purposes you could reset the pump to like 0.01.9 for certain testing purposes. One employee would do this during early on a sunday morning and their friends and family would come line up and fill things up, including things like big RV’s. We are talking several hundred gallons of gas every Sunday morning. Corp might not have missed a regular car tank or two a week but when they were short some 3-4 thousand gallons in a month they started looking. They got away with it for two or three months before they got caught.

        Recently here, I dropped my debit card at the register at a local discount store. They knew me and put it in the back and called me and I came to get it. I tried to use it and it was locked. I go to my bank, and an employee there had signed up for Match.com and tried to buy a bunch of other strange things on the night shift that the card was in the store. The bank took one look at that cluster of ‘incoming’, froze the card and denied the whole list. I took the printed list back to the store and the manager was mortified at some of the (deleted) on the list and one morning employee had their phone and said they got locked out of their match.com subscription. I got a $5o gift card to the store and the ex employee faced charges. At least my bank caught it.

        Another I used a card to pay an invoice for a part over the phone in a town 50 miles away. I’d just gotten it in the mail and authorized them and they paid for the part. I went to the grocery store and tried to buy some groceries within 10 min and the card locked. I called them right there and explained that I had paid the invoice over the phone and could give them to who and for how much, and I was standing in my own grocery store trying to buy this much in groceries. I appreciated them being right on top of it for fraud but would they please check the city of my legal address and compare to the store trying to charge, right now, please? They were nice and unfroze it. I’d rather have a bit of a ‘jumpy’ and get my card locked off than have someone run it up!

  • lkb November 24, 2015, 1:12 pm

    I’ve been on both sides of this issue, though not at a gas station:

    1. While working at a library, we’d get patrons who’d waltz in 10 minutes before closing time and continue to putz around while we’re trying to close up shop, sometimes it would take up to 1/2 hour to get everyone out. Note that we were “off the clock” at closing time, so we didn’t get paid for our time with the “personal shoppers”. We were supposed to just “smile and nod” but when all you want to do at the end of a long day is go home and relax…

    2. Then, on the other side of things, there was a period of my life where my best time to go grocery shopping was very early on a Saturday morning. I would hit the local 24-hour supermarket and get my family’s weeks-worth of groceries (about $100). Two weeks in a row, the one cashier on duty saw me coming and quite deliberately turned out her light, which forced me to use the self-checkout (generally intended for 10 items or less — far less than $100). I’ve not been a fan of that chain ever since.

    In any case, I can see both sides on this one. Not fun.

    • Devin November 25, 2015, 9:46 am

      In both your cases, I hope you made a complaint. In case 1, that library was in violation of federal labor laws (assuming you’re in the US). In case 2, most stores have a policy to always have at least 1 checker line open at all times (a lot of stores have to have at least 1, and depending on policy have to open a 2nd line when the 1st line hits a certain number waiting) because most stores also have to have someone working the self check lines (in case of a bar code misread, checking IDs for liquor or cigarettes, ensuring people don’t steal items by not scanning them).

  • ~Dessa~ November 24, 2015, 1:12 pm

    I spent 5 years dealing with customers just like that man. You can explain to people like that until you run out of oxygen, and they still think they are so special that the clerk should obey their every command. If I read the op right, lights and pumps are turned off in the back at the breaker box. Every convenience store I have ever worked in had that set-up. Look to see if anyone is at the pumps, if no, then go turn them all off. Anyone that pulls up while shut-down is happening is just out of luck. It happens more often than people realize. After 8 hours of waiting on rude people, I would probably say the same thing to another rude customer.

    • Rattus November 25, 2015, 8:29 am

      All these convenience stores/gas stations with this set up might want to consider a change in their shut-down protocol. How about this – go outside, put a sign up at the pumps that says “Closed”, along with the hours of operation, then go inside, lock the doors, and close things down.

  • iwadasn November 24, 2015, 1:36 pm

    It sounds like the way you go about closing led to understandable confusion on the customer’s part. If the lights were on, the machine accepted his credit card, and he was able to start pumping gas, how was he supposed to know that you would turn everything off a minute later?

  • Michelle November 24, 2015, 2:06 pm

    So I went back and reread the story several times. IF the customer had already swiped his card and was fueling his car when the pump went off, then I get why he would be upset. IF that is the case, then it wasn’t a failure to plan, it is a bad procedure for shutting down the pumps and a new procedure is in order. IF the card reader lets you swipe your card even if the pumps are shut down, then a new procedure is definitely in order and maybe a couple of signs.

    OP, could you please clarify if the customer was actually fueling when the pump went down or had swiped his card?

  • Ty November 24, 2015, 2:25 pm

    There’s a lot of confusion stemming from how the story is written. Were the lights turned off when he showed up or not? Had he started pumping his gas before the pumps were shut off? Also, had he been a traveler who was merely passing through the area, how would he have automatically known your hours, especially since many gas stations are open late at night?

    Also, even if he managed to show up in the gap of time between your last check of the pumps and your turning off the pumps, I don’t think his request that you check the pumps before shutting them off was entirely unreasonable, and your response was rather curt. You really could have explained the situation more thoughtfully.

    Finally, the “poor planning” line is more suited to social situations than customer service. The way you implemented it, it actually came off as rather smug and quite rude. Again, had the man not been a local, it would have been difficult for him to “plan” with not knowing your exact hours, and the aforementioned missing tidbits from the narrative don’t paint a clear picture demonstrating that you were completely in the right and he was completely in the wrong. As of now, I must agree with the other commenters that this isn’t exactly a “polite spine” scenario. The customer didn’t handle the situation well, but it seems that you didn’t either.

  • Biscuitgirl November 24, 2015, 2:28 pm

    I was on a cross country trip with my mom and baby. On one leg of the trip I found that gas stations were few and far between. I’d gas up when possible because I didn’t know when or where the next station would be. In one case I misread a sign that said where a gas station was. We were on fumes, and out in the country. I had to make a decision. To either keep going on the road I was on hoping to find gas, or back track to get back on the main road. I did run upon a closed gas station, but thankfully the pumps were left on. And I had no cell service for the area, and a spotty gps.

    Even though I’m not used to getting low on gas, sometimes things happen. Sure the guy could have gambled it and ran low. Then again he could have been in a position that was similar to mine.

    • Willynilly November 25, 2015, 12:06 am

      I am from NYC, around here gas stations are on main roads in neighborhoods, and just about always 24 hours.
      A few years ago I went on a vacation in Oregon, about 90 miles north of Portland. When I left the airport my rental car tank was 3/4 full. But then I drive through the woods and didn’t pass a single gas station. I got to the town where I was staying and didn’t pass any stations. The next day I drove around doing touristy stuff, assuming at some point I would find a station. But nope. It started getting serious. And there weren’t tons of locals around to ask. Finally I found someone who could help and give me directions. They kind of chuckled as they explained the policy was to keep gas stations *off* main roads because they are unsightly and ruin the picturesque look of the towns that rely on tourist money; I was not impressed, I was stressed out.

      • Miss-E November 25, 2015, 10:24 am

        Not to nitpick but if you were 90 miles north of Portland, you were in Washington. I’m a proud Oregonian whose been to every corner of my state and never heard of such nonsense as keeping gas stations out of sight!

        • Willynilly November 25, 2015, 3:02 pm

          I just Googled, it was 90 miles west not north, my mistake. A touristy coastal town.
          In Portland I passed many out of business gas stations, along the drive not a single station, and in town, as mentioned, no gas stations on main roads apparently on purpose. (I suppose the info I was given could have been false, but that’s what I was told.)

          I’m sure in Portland there are actual in-business stations, and I am sure there are stations somewhere in those 90 miles between the airport and my destination. But as a complete out-of-towner I had no way of knowing get where they were. (I did not have GPS with gas station info at the time.)

          • Liawen November 26, 2015, 4:28 am

            I’m actually commenting here for once to stick up for my beloved state, and opine that the person you talked to was probably being sarcastic, as sarcasm is pretty much a way of life here, or at least trying to joke with you. I have traveled a good chunk of the coast, and while there are stretches where gas stations are few, it isn’t because of any “unsightly” policies. Oregon has many small towns, especially along the coast, where they aren’t big enough to justify building and maintaining stations. Most likely he was just making fun of the fact that the only nearby station was inconvenient to get to.

          • NostalgicGal May 13, 2016, 4:59 pm

            Some years ago I was in rural Oregon vacationing and it was a real PITA finding a gas station. Honest. You’d be searching and some of them were off on a gravel turnoff you’d have to know about, and turning around on that road might be miles farther. Backing up on a paved twisty two lane with no shoulder, drop-offs and possible other traffic is not my idea of fun. Or they would be so well hid when you were driving through a small town, same thing, you’d miss them before you knew you’d found one. I had many a major screaming fight with my husband on that trip over it, and left him to try to find gas, he finally blew a cork and gave in on it. I’m sorry, I was in the near Portland area and it was no fun finding gas.

  • KrissyN November 24, 2015, 2:32 pm

    I’ve always viewed that phrase as sort of a mantra that we recite in our heads to avoid getting dragged into other people’s last minute drama (by then declining to assist in a more diplomatic and polite way), not something that you actually say to a person’s face. Certainly you can make the point of being unable to help a person without insulting them. And that phrase (with said “sweet smile”) certainly comes across as insulting. Even when it’s their own fault as in a “lack of planning” it seems quite rude to point out someone else’s short comings.

    Beyond that, I agree with the other posters that you are lucky he was the kind of person to simply storm off. And I also agree that he had reason for his displeasure if he was indeed able to start a transaction and then had the system shut down. Though, of course I don’t approve of the way he handle himself.

  • Calli Arcale November 24, 2015, 2:48 pm

    I dunno. I think the guy had a legitimate confusion. I’ve never seen a gas station that posted its hours by the pump; it’s generally on the store door instead, which he would not have seen since he was paying at the pump. The exception is in areas where there are a lot of drive-offs, and there it’s not really store hours; it’s a warning that the pump does not accept pay-at-pump transactions outside of specific hours and you have to go inside and prepay. And given that many gas stations are designed to accept credit card transactions even when there is no attendant, he could quite reasonably have thought the store hours applied only to the actual store and not to pay-at-pump transactions.

    OP, if you are interested in a constructive suggestion, perhaps you could suggest to your manager that they consider implementing a system where the credit card transactions shut down half an hour before closing, to prevent this sort of situation. Then you as the attendant will be in full control of the pumps and nobody can begin fueling right before the pumps are shut off.

  • Kay_L November 24, 2015, 3:07 pm

    Agree with others. Not a “polite spine” at all.

    Maybe try turning the lights off first, then go back and make sure no one is there, then turn off the pumps.

    And never use that snarky phrase about “poor planning on your part…” I think you may have misunderstood discussions about that on ehell. Frankly, I don’t recall anyone seriously recommending its use with a customer ever as being part of a polite response.

  • Marozia November 24, 2015, 3:39 pm

    Very well said. Kudos to you!!

  • Louisa November 24, 2015, 3:40 pm

    I think the OP was well within his or her right to say what they said. As someone who worked a close shift for many years in a well known Australian supermarket chain, I would frequently have people come in once all the stock was pulled out of the display and returned to the cool room for the evening.

    At first I was more than happy to stop my nightly cleaning routine and get things out of the cool room for customers, but after meeting one woman I finally refused to do it. She would come in at exactly 10pm (the time I was meant to be leaving the store.) at first I thought perhaps she could only come in at 10pm due to other commitments but one evening she let it slip that “She did her shopping earlier in the day, she just came in so she would have my full attention because I was obviously finished for the night and she could take as much time as she wanted.” after she told me that I told her the store introduced a new policy and I was no longer allowed to remove products from the cool room.

    I didn’t get paid overtime for the time she wasted, I was spending my personal time helping this woman who just expected me to stay back for her and more often that not I’d be reprimanded the next day for not logging off at the correct time and taking too long to finish my nightly duties. My job ends at the moment I finish my scheduled shift.

  • PatGreen November 24, 2015, 3:40 pm

    I want to congratulate the OP and all the posters supporting her on their wide range of knowledge and preparedness. I on the other hand don’t know when all the gas stations close. My husband and I live 3-5 hours from my parents and I haven’t even memorized all the gas stations and their opening and closing times along that route. I cannot imagine the study it takes to memorize the closing schedules of all the gas stations one might hypothetically come across, particularly if one travels out of state.

    I’m sure that all of you in favor of the OP also carry tanks of gas in case you’re running on fumes. After all, unlike, say, lottery tickets, a person unable to get gas may find themselves sitting on the side of the road calling AAA, a very comforting prospect at night. Unfortunately my lack of preparedness means that when I’m low I just start looking for a station. Depending on where I’m driving it might take several miles before I see civilization and an exit.

    I know that if I had pulled into a gas station, run my card, and begun to pump gas only for everything to have gone dark, I would be frightened and angry, particularly if I was on a budget and wasn’t sure how much money, if any, had been taken off. If I had approached the gas station attendant I would have been delighted if her response was patronizing rather than helpful or sympathetic.

    Once again, my highest complements to the OP.

    • Miss-E November 25, 2015, 10:27 am

      Love this response!

  • Matt November 24, 2015, 3:42 pm

    I was once the rude last minute customer.

    I flew into my home state to visit my folks. We had made reservations at a restaurant that holds special meaning to my family. Well, the airline lost my luggage and I had to stay in the airport until it showed up. We called the restaurant to let them know that we would miss the reservation, and they told us to just get there when we get there and they’ll seat us. We got there right at close, and they graciously let us in to eat. We had to sit in the bar since the servers were busy closing down the restaurant. But we ordered immediately, got some martinis, and the food came out real fast. The staff was polite and provided excellent service, for which they received a large tip. We didn’t linger after the bill, of course.

    I was very frazzled from my experience at the airport, but sitting down to a nice dinner with my family really made me a lot better.

  • Annastasia von Beaverhausen November 24, 2015, 4:20 pm

    I don’t find the OP polite at all. It’s not particularly clear; however, if the customer had paid for his gas at the pump, and then he was shut off before he could pump, and then OP followed with her ‘Lack of planning’ line, she was not only wrong, but totally obnoxious.

    The fact that she gleefully includes the details about the man not being able to get gas at any other station that night because she shut the pumps off while he was mid-pump seals it.

    If I were the customer in question, I would be following up with a VERY angry phone-call/e-mail/letter.

    No props from me for this nasty OP.

  • SC November 24, 2015, 4:33 pm

    How on earth was the customer supposed to know that you were closing? I’ve never seen the hours for a gas station listed on the pumps, and when he pulled up everything was lit up and working. The first rudeness and bad service was from you (and your company) when you shut down while a customer was in the middle of a transaction. As a customer, I’d be upset if that happened to me!

    It sounds like the customer didn’t handle this in the best way either, and got rude and aggressive (probably because he was frustrated and worried about getting gas into his car). Still, your response did nothing to improve a bad situation which you created.

  • Molly November 24, 2015, 5:11 pm

    Yeah I’m not with the OP on this subject. Most gas stations are 24/7 and unless there was very clear signage on the pumps I don’t blame the guy for being frustrated. Plus you don’t know his story so smugly telling him he had poorly planned (although apparently not since he was getting gas) was uncalled for. Maybe his Mom is in the hospital with cancer and he has been visiting her daily … or dog just died and he is on his way back from the emergency vet … or wife just deployed and he is raising a child alone and needs to get home. I’m not excusing his poor behavior but these circumstances with the pumps seem strange and your attitude made the situation worse.

  • Devin November 24, 2015, 6:44 pm

    I think in this situation the Admin has another ‘polite spine’ phrase that would have been more appropriate – “I’m sorry that won’t be possible” and repeat as necessary. Since you aren’t the pump opener, there may be safety checks that happen in the morning prior to re-starting the pumps, so I am completely on board with you not being willing/able to re-open for this last minute customer. I am not on board with you telling them their lacking of planning isn’t your issue. Heck, their plan might have been: We’ll being going by X town at 10:00pm. We’ll get gas and a snack there before heading to our destination. They would have no idea that your store closes right at 10:0pm (most stations around here only have hours posted on the door, which you don’t go to if you’re paying at the pump).

    • sweetonsno November 24, 2015, 11:06 pm

      Devin, thanks for supplying the appropriate eHell phrase. Yes… “that won’t be possible” is perfect here.

      • TootsNYC November 28, 2015, 6:55 pm

        I don’t think so, actually.

        Because of the word “won’t.” It usually means something very different from “can’t.”

        Contrast “that won’t be possible” with “that isn’t possible.” The first one has a strong implication that it could have been possible, but that you’ve decided it won’t be.”

        So the OP’s comments about, “It takes too long to start back up,” etc., are fine. But I’m not a fan of “that won’t be possible,” especially not in a customer service situation.

        I’m not saying you have to give in to the customer. You just shouldn’t use word that imply you’re making some arbitrary, personal decision.

  • mark2 November 24, 2015, 7:40 pm

    I agree with the majority gere, that the snappy comeback is not graceful etiquette. It’s understandable, but not necessarily a good tespinse. Over the years though, it has been suggested erroneously that a polite spine means a smart aleck comeback and it really doesn’t.

    • AngePange November 24, 2015, 10:28 pm

      I tend to agree with you. Sometimes the snappy “oh yeah, I went there!” comebacks seem to be encouraged – and in this situation I wonder what actually happened – the customer may have been desperate – let’s face it, mistakes happen. Recently I’ve had a few relatives in hospital and have been ferrying them to and fro. Being distracted by the fear and anxiety that goes with sick people I love, I almost ran out of gas a few days ago – I would have been very tense and freaked out if I’d been turned away from a gas station with that little jibe. You do NOT know the customer’s story, OP. No one is saying “turn the pumps back on”, however “a polite spine” in the customer service context would have suggested being at least somewhat sympathetic, and immediately stating “I really am sorry I cannot help you – but there’s a gas station very close by at ‘x'”. Perhaps even explain the card situation to him. But “poor planning on YOUR part” is so accusatory. Maybe it’s ok to be super snarky to someone who has been rude to you; I just don’t feel like “two wrongs make a right” and, in a customer service context, the customer has NO RIGHT to be rude to you, but even if they are, taking the high road is far more advisable.

  • Anonymouse November 24, 2015, 11:34 pm

    I agree with the others, OP. Not really the time or place for that particular phrase. While I admire the “not giving in to rude demands” part of the story, it would have been better to lead off with “there is a 7-11 about 2 blocks north of here” or similar.

    To those of you saying that “the lights being turned off would indicate it’s closed,” I have to say… For most people, that would be the case. For others, not so much.

    When I was managing a fast food restaurant, we had a day when we closed early for a maintenance issue. We turned off all the lights outside at 9 p.m, and the dining room lights at 9:15 (after it was finished being cleaned). As well, there was a sign posted on the menu board stating that we were closing early. Around 10 p.m, a woman pulls up to the drive-thru speaker and sits there for 20 minutes, before pulling up to the window and sitting there for another 10! (Headsets were turned off at the time, didn’t know she was there until I had finished running my reports and saw her yelling at me). Worse, she had three cars lined up behind her!

    Some people simply can not take a hint…

    • Huh November 25, 2015, 9:17 am

      I was thinking the same thing when people kept saying to put up a sign about pump hours/pumps closed. A large amount of people will never read it.

      I’m not saying they won’t read it out of ill-intent or special snowflakey-ness, just that they are distracted about other things, and aren’t thinking about closing times. They are just thinking that pumps are broken or something and they need gas. I’ve been the boneheaded idiot who breezed right past the sign with hours clearly marked, and it wasn’t until the lights turned off or the announcement was made that “We are closing” that my brain realized, You need to get out, the place is closed!

      • Cat November 27, 2015, 3:32 pm

        Many of us are on autopilot. You are not alone.

      • Miss-E November 30, 2015, 1:18 pm

        When I was working at a grocery store I used to fight with my boss all the time about this. I was in the habit of going up to the stragglers about ten minutes after we closed and just letting them know that we were going to wrap up and shut down the registers. He came on the scene and said it was rude to tell people that we were closing and we should let them shop in peace. So naturally we had people shopping until about 11pm (we closed at 10). I never thought I was being rude. I was really nice and friendly and most of the time the people reacted with surprise because they had no idea that we were closing.

  • wren November 25, 2015, 8:58 am

    How did the OP know there was lack of planning? Maybe the man had planned to arrive at the gas station on time but ended up being late for some unforeseen reason. That “lack of planning… ” phrase is something I’ve moaned privately but personally I wouldn’t say it to a stranger.

  • Jeanna November 25, 2015, 6:49 pm

    You (op) were rude. That snarky planning-emergency comment is not even original. It’s a total vaguebook meme. I’ve had PITA coworkers who have it printed out and hung in their cubes. Yuck yuck gag!!!

  • anonymous November 27, 2015, 10:55 pm

    Not only do I think the “not my problem” type comment was unbelieveably rude, but it was downright dangerous. You’re working (presumably) alone, confronted by an upset man banging on the door. Why on Earth would you antagonize him?? This could have ended very badly.

    I’m assuming OP was working alone as my sister has been a manager of one of these convenience store/gas station operations for a few years and the closer is almost always on shift alone.

  • NostalgicGal November 28, 2015, 6:38 pm

    I DID have the issue (a friend bought one of the three facers of that smallmall) and reopened the restauarant that had been closed for 3-4 months. It had been a donut shop that served Biscuits and Gravy at like 5 am. He put in yakitori (grilled chicken on skewers) and had a prep cook in there to get stuff set up and going and be joined by the day staff about 10:30 to open at 11.

    People started beating on the drivethru window at 5 am when the prep cook came on and started DEMANDING their biscuits and gravy. It didn’t matter the outside didn’t look like the old shop, it didn’t matter the operating hours right in their face at the drive through, started at 11 am. They Wanted Their Biscuits With Gravy And Coffee NOW and a few broke the slide through window setup more than once in a week.

    He added one more person at 5 and they baked sausage by the 15# pan in the convection oven, we baked frozen Ubake biscuits in that oven, and we converted one of the big rice cookers to make gravy in.

    It changed to some food prep for the next day was done in slow periods, and we would have one person come on at 5 am; assemble the chicken grill parts (cleaned by the closer) and start baking biscuits and stirring up gravy by the gallon. The sausage was usually done during the day before and refrigerated so that would come out and be added to the multigallon pans of gravy, then when the biscuits were done, the rest of the store inside lights were turned on, the lighted sign turned on and we were open for business. This was a good solid hour starting at five and we never had anything to hold over so…. I started being opener which meant bust rear for an hour, get the B&G ready, unlock the door and turn on the lights and continue the rest of morning setup around selling B&G and coffee or soda. Slow morning was 4 gallons, average was 11, some days it was 18. By 7:30 am. By 7:30 I could get the rest of the start (chicken cooking etc) of the morning for when the boss would show and the next morning shift person. (boss was fair, if the store looked…less than prim, he checked the last hour receipts first. If you’d been busy off your rear he didn’t chew you out. Slow morning, you got reamed a new one)

    One morning not long after I started opening, it was about 5:30 and I had someone insistently playing with the call for drive through so I answered it. Fellow and some of his buds were waiting in the parking lot, it’s 5:30 and can’t I just nuke them up some B&G? I’m holding a whisk that’s over a foot long without the handle and trying not to drip and politely explain we don’t have held overs…. and I have to cook their breakfast. Bake the sausage and drain it, bake the biscuits, and make the gravy (exhibit A the big whisk). The boss won’t let me come in any earlier than 5 am and it takes a while to cook their breakfast. AS SOON as I turn the sign light on, food is done, and I’m hurrying.

    He politely backed up to the lot again. They could see me walk around the counter to go to the breaker box way in back to turn the lights on, and as I rounded the corner, the drivethru would fill up. The one guy told his buds about the gal in there is COOKING for us, and she serves as soon as the food is ready. I never had another problem with a window pounder again. (It was always between 5:55 and 6:00 that I’d be ready no matter how I tried).

    Yes there are customers who do understand if properly and politely explained to. I happily worked there until owner’s GF started there and wanted the 5-8 slot and I got moved to the crapslot (11-2 and you were never going to get out of there at 2, it was mostly bust yours cleaning up after people who didn’t understand that it was a self busing establishment)

  • TootsNYC November 28, 2015, 8:39 pm

    I’m wondering exactly how out-of-control this guy was. Here are some snippets from the OP:

    [quote]What I do know is that he obviously had to use a credit card at the pump to get it on in the first place,

    [u]At some point between[/u] when I left the front counter and when I turned off the gas pumps, he pulled into our parking lot and attempted to start pumping gas… [/quote]

    So, when he drove up, the lights were on and the pump worked. As someone pointed out, we don’t know how long that interval was between leaving the counter and turning off the pumps. But, based on the below, when she came back from turning them off, did she not notice his car?

    [quote]and became notably outraged that the pump had been shut off. While I was getting ready to leave, I heard knocking on our front door and went to investigate.[/quote]

    I totally understand by he’d by outraged. And why he’d knock.

    So now we have the actual interaction, in the OP’s words. (bcs of the use of the phrase “sweet smile,” I’m going to assume the OP is female)

    [quote]This man [u]demanded[/u] that I [u]stop inconveniencing him[/u] and turn the fuel pumps back on. I told him that wouldn’t be possible, as once the system is shut off for the night, it takes several minutes to get started again. [u]He tried to claim[/u] that I should have checked if anyone was fueling before shutting the pumps off, to which I said that was not possible.

    These could have been tremendously rude. Or these sentiments could have been delivered in a frustrated but not particularly aggressive way. He was upset–and I think it was very understandable that he was.
    I’d love to know what he literally said that translated as “stop inconveniencing me.” That doesn’t sound like a phrase most people would use.
    I kinda agree with him, that the attendant should have checked before shutting off the pumps–I get that if he drove up in those few minutes, it could have worked out that there wasn’t time–but I’m thinking:
    First the guy has to drive into the lot to the pump. Then he has to turn the car off. Then he has to get out and shut the door. Then he has to get his wallet out and find the slot and swipe it. And did he have time to pick the pump and struggle with the hose?
    That can happen pretty fast. But it’s also not “no time at all,” and I think the OP should have been more understanding about the idea that if she’s not going straight from the door (having checked the pumps) to the switch, then it’s sort of on her that she didn’t realize he was there and had swiped his card.
    So she should have taken “the blame” for that and apologized instead of flat-out denying his point and arguing with him.

    [quote]“But I’m on fumes!”[/quote]

    I just don’t see this as a rude thing to say, and though tone could influence whether it was rude, I would give a lot of leeway for someone who was frustrated.

    [quote]that statement made him storm back to his car and leave. Funny, being “on fumes” didn’t stop him from gunning his engine and screeching his tires out of our parking lot.[/quote]
    These seem to be given as examples of how rude he was, and that he continued to behave inappropriately. But I actually cut him a lot of slack here. Of course he would storm back to his car and leave–what does she [i]think[/i] is an appropriate reaction to that sort of comment?

  • Angel November 29, 2015, 1:34 pm

    I thought the “poor planning” quote was unnecessary. Sometimes the less you say, the better off you are. I’m sorry but I can’t turn the pumps back on. There is another gas station down the road that should be open. And that’s it! Don’t stand there engaging/arguing with the customer. I don’t think the OP in this story was polite at all. And she is very lucky that the man didn’t pull a weapon on her! That time of night–alone in a gas station. Some actions are just not smart. The OP was not smart nor was she polite in this instance.

  • Starlight November 29, 2015, 5:32 pm

    OP, if I were your manager and heard about this exchange, I would be reconsidering keeping you on. You were snotty and rude and smug to someone- are you really surprised they were rude back?

    “What I do know is that he obviously had to use a credit card at the pump to get it on in the first place, and our pumps have a safety feature that prevents a credit card from being used outside more than once per day. So, even if I had turned the system back on for him, he wouldn’t have been able to use his credit card to pump gas. ”

    Wow. So, he was able to input the CC and begin the transaction, and then things got shut down on him. And you gleefully note that he couldn’t have gotten gas anyway if you restarted things. You need some serious retraining in customer service. And I sincerely hope that you never find yourself desperately in need of gas and meet someone who behaves like you did.

  • Library Diva November 30, 2015, 12:36 pm

    As a customer service employee, you are charged with serving EVERYONE as best you are able. Sometimes they’ll be unpleasant. Maybe it’s because they’re in some kind of emergency situation, maybe because they have something else going on in their lives, maybe because they’re just jerks like that. You have to be polite and helpful anyway. Not acquiesce to their every demand, but just show that you care and want to try to help them find a solution to their problem. What would it have cost you to simply say to this gentleman: “I apologize, sir, but the off switch for the pumps doesn’t allow me to see if anyone’s out there or not. Your card won’t be charged, but unfortunately, I can’t turn them back on. However, if you make a right and go up the road a half a mile, there’s a station that’s open for two more hours. I’m sure they can help you out.”

    Your response may have shown spine, but it wasn’t very polite. True, you’re under no obligation to make his “poor planning” your emergency. But it’s also true that everyone walking this planet has needed someone else’s help due to a situation of their own making.

    Rude customers are no fun. I’ve worked at several retail jobs in my life and have certainly seen my share of them: the late-night cruiser, the screamer, the arguer, the woman paying with $20 of unsorted change, the person with the crazy demand (“What do you mean, you won’t take back this item that I bought here four years ago?!” “Can you call around to every location on the busiest day of the year to see if they have a bag of this $1.99 garland without the rip in it?”) But you’re there for everyone. It’s easy to provide excellent customer service to nice, polite people. The unpleasant customers really allow you to shine. You’d be surprised how often you can make them walk out smiling (or at least calmer than they were) if you try.