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MADISON, Wis. -- Locally owned convenience store chain PDQ Food Stores Inc. is moving forward with a plan to prevent gas drive-offs. The company plans to upgrade its fuel pumps, making every store in the Madison area prepay only, WISC-TV reported.
Once the change is implemented, drivers will have use a credit card at the pump or pre-pay inside before pumping fuel. "It's no secret that as prices get higher, the instances of theft increase as well. Plus, it's kind of a double whammy because the impact of that theft is much greater at $3.50 per gallon vs. $2.50 per gallon," said Matt Hauser, president of the Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association. About 60 percent of consumers prepay for gas, he noted. PDQ's move is in line with recommendations from local law enforcement, according to literature posted at pumps. The company hopes a minor inconvenience will tackle a big problem head-on, especially because there is little recourse in collecting from those committing gas thefts.
A Madison Police Department spokesperson confirmed that officers no longer respond to gas drive-offs because the crime is preventable -- by requiring customers to prepay.
"These are all individually owned and operated. They're individual owners who have a brand agreement with these major oil company suppliers -- and in the case of PDQ, [the company] is actually 100 percent employee-owned, so I'm sure it's very frustrating for these employee owners to experience losses due to gas theft," Hauser said in the report. Representatives from PDQ did not return calls to WISC-TV.
Drive-offs are a growing and pricey problem. According to a survey of convenience store owners done last year, Wisconsin owners reported a collective loss of almost $2 million due to drive-offs in 2009. Nationwide, retailers lost nearly $90 million a year due to drive-offs.