London

Despite drop in prices, prepaying might be only way to avoid pump-and-dashers, says station manager

Despite gas prices expected to come down slightly this weekend, a local gas station manager thinks it's still not going to help address the rise in people pumping and dashing. 

Last year there were at least 21,000 incidents of drivers who pumped and dashed in Ontario

With prices soaring across the country, so have the number of gas thefts, with some people filling up their tank at non-prepaid pumps and then driving off.  (Angela McInnes/CBC News)

Despite gas prices expected to come down slightly this weekend, a local gas station manager thinks it's still not going to help address the rise in people stealing fuel at the pumps. 

"$1.74 or a $1.70 is still expensive," said Pardeep Ahluwalia, the manager at ESSO Westside Variety. "It's still a lot of money."

With prices soaring across the country, so have the number of gas thefts, with some people filling up their tanks at non-prepaid pumps and then driving off. 

The price of a litre of gasoline at the retail level has hit record highs in the last week, soaring to more than $1.80 per litre in areas of southwestern Ontario. 

Pardeep Ahluwalia, the manager at ESSO Westside Variety, said he had to make all his pumps prepaid to ensure people weren't driving off without paying. (Angela McInnes/CBC News)

Gas prices fell overnight in the London area by about 9 cents on Friday, with some stations selling for $1.74 per litre. 

Analysts say the lower prices won't last, and the pressure on oil reserves is expected to cause more increases.

The increase in prices and theft has prompted Ahluwalia to make all of his pumps prepaid only. 

"That's the only way to really limit the pump and dash," he said. "It's tough, but there's not much I can do. I have regular customers and I know them by their first name, and I know how much they're going to fill up and what lottery ticket they're going to buy,  and I have to say, 'Hey, look, I'm sorry,' and explain why we implemented prepay."

Ahluwalia explained that as a family-owned business, a lot of resources are tied up in checking camera footage and reporting incidents to the police in the hopes they can get the money back.

"The more it happens, we're out $1,000, $2,000 a month just on [pump and] dashes and we don't make a whole lot of money on gas," he added. 

"If it happens once or twice, it's too many."

The increase in people pumping and dashing isn't new. Dave Bryans, the head of the Ontario Convenience Stores Association, said there were an estimated 21,000 gas thefts across the province last year before the price spike. 

"It really hurts the family-run gas stations throughout Ontario as well, because they have to absorb the loss," Bryans added.

With files from CBC Windsor

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