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    Tom's Convenience Stores Customers To Pay Before Pumping

    Shipley Energy enacts new policy in response to rash of fuel thefts.

    YORK, Pa. -- The ability for customers to first pump gas and then pay is a luxury Shipley Energy can no longer afford, reported the York Daily Record.

    Recent high gas prices that have, on the average, risen above $1.90 per gallon for regular unleaded, have prompted some residents to fill up and flee.

    York-based Shipley Energy's 27 Tom's Convenience Stores lose about $120 per store per week in gas-related thefts, said Rob Iosue, a company spokesman. The company must sell 1,500 gallons, or 150 fill-ups, to help cover the revenue lost when people steal gasoline, he said.

    On average, all Tom's Convenience Stores spread across south central Pennsylvania sell about 15,000 to 20,000 gas fill-ups per day, Iosue said. "When gas prices were lower, the money lost to drive-offs was small," he said. "But now, drive-offs are taking a bigger percent of operating revenues."

    Shipley has surveyed its convenience store workers to find ways to fight gas theft, and has found that employees often have a tough time watching pumps that are out of eyeshot. So the company decided to restrict the ability of customers to pump gas first and then pay, Iosue said. "It's a difficult situation. We don't like to make customers prepay. It's not our preferred way of doing [business]. But we are forced into doing this."

    The high gas prices that have fueled the thefts might soon come to an end. Most oil companies, like Shipley Energy, have in stock all the home heating oil they will need to make it through the winter. Refineries can focus on increased gasoline production, which will increase the national fuel supply enough to where prices start to drop.

    "I believe we have seen the worst of it," Iosue said.

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