Why not have two or three lines where
- Customers pay a flat rate in cash only $20, $30, $40, $50
- An attendant fills the tank, while customers remain in cars
No need to make change or wait for credit-card authorization.
This “quick cash” procedure would speed the customers’ pass-through, minimize wasteful time in lines, and perhaps eliminate lines entirely.
It is at least worth a try, to see if it helps.
One or two lines could remain open for credit-card purchases, if stations wished.
Implementation should be easy
Individual gas stations can implement this procedure immediately, using their own employees. No need to wait.
Simply advertise it on their station signs, perhaps with a standard slogan such as “Quick Cash Gas” for Emergencies.
If more attendants are needed, then disaster-relief personnel can help during the 2-3 days when evacuation relief is needed.
The procedure could be tried for several hundred miles along the evacuation routes.
The only potential problems I see are
- Theft of cash, always a problem with cash transactions, and
- Shortages of cash at ATMs, if the procedure takes off.
A third potential problem is wanting “cash back” in these special lines.
Let’s say you gave the attendant $60, hoping to fill up the tank, but the gas cost $43.57. The real problem is that everybody leaving town would like a full tank, so they would overpay and then seek cash back. Making change is time-consuming and would defeat the purpose of moving the line quickly.
So, I suggest “Quick Cash Gas mean no change, no cash back,” with that rule announced clearly in advance. The station pockets the difference. The goal is speed.
Bottom Line: Speed
Again, I am not saying it would definitely work.
I am saying it is worth trying to see if it speeds up lines. If unexpected problems crop up during implementation, solve them as they emerge.
That’s Friedrich Hayek’s point about interventions like this one. You can’t know all the issues in advance. But none seems insurmountable.