Thursday, November 17, 2005

It Blows to Suck

Pumping gas the other day, I noticed that my tires looked a little low, and decided to go to the air pump to fill them up. Nowadays it costs 50¢ for air... you know, the stuff that's all around us for free. I remember when air was free, back when free air was a service of the gas station. Now free air is 50¢. But that's not what this gripe is about, I've come to terms with paying for my air a long time ago. No no, what shocked me was when I turned around and decided my mats were dirty, and maybe I should vacuum them. I typically don't use the gas station vacuums, because you have to pay for that too, but it IS my new car, and my friends Sue and Joe are coming down from Michigan for Thanksgiving, so I wanted the car to look somewhat presentable, and not having the time to run extension cords down my stairs to plug in the vacuum at home, I decided what the hell. Figuring it couldn't be more than the air pump, I took out another two quarters, only to look up at the sign that said "$1.50". Not wanting to make a scene, I casually shook my head and went on my merry way, dirty mats and all.

Dissecting the fundamental logic of this scenario, I'm at a loss to explain how it could be more money to vacuum than to pump air. Breaking it down into simpler terms, it's 50¢ to blow air, $1.50 to suck air. Or in a different but equally accurate term, it costs me half a buck to give me air that's ALREADY free, but it's a dollar more to suck it away from me!

Now one may argue that there are different variables involved in each machine. OK, let's go over them: One blows air, one sucks air. Assuming the pressure is equal, it doesn't cost any more money to run a fan one way versus the other. But it's not equal, is it? There's no way it takes less pressure to push air into a tire at 40 psi then it takes to suck up some dirt particles. Hence the reason the pump uses an air compressor, which if you've ever been to Home Depot, is alot more money than a vacuum. So that's out.

Supply and demand? Every one of us with a car has had to use the air pump at one time or another, but honestly, how many people really use the gas station vacuum? Seems there's a much more demand for something you can't regularly get on your own, unless you own one of the above mentioned air compressors. Vacuums, however, are much more commonly found in households across America, and as such is not as aggressively sought out elsewhere. Really, why pay $1.50 for something I can do at home? 50¢? Sure, it pays for the convenience of not having to lug your vacuum outside, and is admittedly more powerful than a Dustbuster. But I'd rather save the extra buck and do it at home, thank you. So you're charging fifty cents for something everyone needs, and one fifty for something people can do at home. If I recall economics class correctly, that's the exact OPPOSITE of the supply and demand concept.

So what does that leave? The fact that once a month a minimum waged gas attendant has to trek on out to the vacuum and empty the dirt bin? Sorry, not seeing the value there. The fact that the vacuum is left on longer? It's certainly not 3 times as long. Any way you slice it, my friends, you're getting ripped off to suck.

I'm not by any means suggesting they raise the price at the air pump to compete with the vacuum, no sir; it's ridiculous to have to pay any amount for either service. My job here is to simply point out the inconsistencies in everyday life.

1 comment:

Steve said...

<<< My job here is to simply point out the inconsistencies in everyday life. >>>

And thank heavens you do!

It is scary how much we sometimes think alike. This was an excellent post, and as I read through it, each step of the way you hit every point I was ready to comment on.