Half a tank?

Yesterday I stopped at the corner gas station for a cup of coffee. The guy in line in front of me told the cashier he wanted to prepay for “half a tank.” The cashier thought for a moment and said “That’ll be twenty five dollars.”

“Twenty five dollars?!”

I probably should have minded my own business but I asked him, “How big is your tank?”

“I don’t know.”

It usually takes 10 gallons or so to fill my Corolla, and even then it’s nowhere near empty since the tank holds a bit over 13 gallons, so I said, “Let’s say fifteen gallons, so half a tank would be seven and a half.” I’d glanced at the price on my way in so I did some mental arithmetic based on $2.319 a gallon and said, “Call it twenty dollars.”

The guy thanked me, paid the cashier twenty dollars, and went out to pump his gas.

What I don’t get is someone thinking “half a tank” is a useful unit of measurement since cars have different size gas tanks. Anyway, gas is sold by the gallon, or more appropriately by the dollar, so “half a tank” doesn’t really mean anything.

If there’s a question in all this, it’s this: Has anyone else ever overheard a similar comment? I’m sure there must be some doozies. Thanks in advance.


No, but I see/hear this about groceries. People looking at total price, not price per ounce or pound.


Many years ago, when the government was considering a conversion from English units of measurement to the metric units used in most of the world, there was a letter to the editor of my local newspaper from a woman who asked something along these lines:
My car takes gallons. Are they going to force me to buy a new car that takes liters?

As that Southern comedian likes to say…
You can’t fix stupid.


No but I remember years ago in North Carolina the first time I ever ran across a pre-pay place. The pump didn’t work so I went inside and the clerk asked me how much I wanted. I said to fill the tank and have no idea how much that will cost. I gave her a 20 and came back for my change after filling the tank. I thought how silly to have to pre-determine how much it would cost. Like paying $50 at a grocery store before putting stuff in the carts. Still very rare in Minnesota yet, helped I suppose with card access at the pump.

We have speed zones for boats where I live. Someone wrote the help column in the local paper: “How many RPMs equal 5 MPH.”

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2 stories… I have never seen my bro in law fill his trucks gas tank, ever. He buys $20 at a time. I don’t know why.

I was filling up my Suburban many years ago. A man pulled up beside me while I was pumping gas. He filled up and went inside to shop while I continued. I did beat him to the cashier to pay for my gas (at $1.80 a gallon). When the cashier said my bill was $75, the guy almost dropped his gallon of milk when he blurted out; How big IS your tank?? To which I replied, 44 gallons. He was amazed at the cost to fill it up.

How high is “up”?

Not a fan of pre pay cause I always fill up. I went to a prepay only gas station last week. I went in and when she asked how much, I was short with her and said I have no idea cause i insist on a fill-up. I was expecting some kind of argument but she said just charge your card for more than the cost, fill up and the actual amount will be automatically charged to your card. I said “Ohh”.

This isn’t a specifically prepay station. You can pay at the pump and pump as much or as little as you want. I walk there when I need gas for the lawn mower. I think this was just a guy who isn’t good at math or doesn’t know how much gas his car holds or just didn’t want to be bothered so he delegated the issue of figuring out how much gas to the cashier. I have a 1 1/4 gallon can for the lawn mower and I can guestimate how much I need to spend.

I worked at a gas station years ago. There were a few customers who usually asked for the same thing every time. One lady would always ask for $2 worth of regular. Another man always said “fill it with premium”. Maybe that customer always asked for half a tank, and was why the attendant knew that $25 was approximately half a tank for his car.

Having owned and operated a gas station for several years I can tell you there is no other way to operate than to have the customers pre-pay for their gas if they are a cash sale. You really expect me to turn on your pump so you can put 20 gallons of gas in your car and drive away?

When gas was $4/gallon I remember talking with a fellow Shell dealer who had a station several miles away, she was bemoaning that she had over $100 in “drive offs” in one week. I explained that the answer was simple, pre-pay. She was concerned that her customers would be offended. I asked her how much money she was willing to give out of her pocket to not possibly offend some people.

Gas pumps have had credit/debit card readers on the pumps or island for at least 20 years so if you’re using a card it’s not an issue. If you’re paying cash, surely you have some idea how big your tank is and how much it costs to fill.


The Mobil station where I get most of my gas still allows to pump without paying with cash first. I prefer just using a debit card because it’s faster and I don’t have to wait for anyone. Still there are very few reported drive-offs. Same thing with the station down the road but on the far pumps they require cards or pre-pay but not on the near pumps. They do record the license numbers though I guess. That’s what they use the binocs for.

Reminded me though back in the 50’s and early 60’s, my dad would get gas every day for his 100 mile commute. But one day he would get $2 worth and the next $3 worth. Guess I never quite understood why except that’s about what he figured he used (27.9 or something). Mom and I would usually go and get the gas at night and then take the back road home and let me drive-straight stick, maybe 12 years old-heh heh. I was a good driver but had to sit on a Sears catalog.

Am I the only person who whips out his cellphone to use the calculator to compare the price per ounce of different brands/package sizes in order to find the best deal? For some products, the package size varies from one retailer to another in order to make it more difficult for consumers to compare the unit price.

Seems some retailers try to obscure the price by different units on different brands.

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There are also those who don’t care what the price of a car is, they only want to know what the payments will be. I had a co-worker who bought a brand new pickup claiming that the payments were lower than he could get on something used because it could be financed longer. I personally haven’t bought a car or motorcycle on an installment load in over 30 years. If I can’t pay for it cash, I can’t afford it.


Of course you see that at ‘rent to own’ stores too. Once, just for the heck of it, calculated the price of a stereo from a chain that set up near military bases, more than double the retail price.

That’s absolutely ludicrous for something that nearly everybody can easily live without. I now work with someone whom I think Keith Richards was talking about in that Rolling Stones song “Happy”.

“Well I never kept a dollar past sunset
It always burned a hole in my pants
Never made a school mama happy
Never blew a second chance, oh no…….”

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Some things you will find around military installations are: pay day loan stores, rent to own stores, buy here pay here used car lots, a few entertainment establishments, and maybe a USO. Lots of bars on the windows too. Always been that way but personally I think ending the draft was a mistake.


Possibly but the cashier had to think about it–or at least he pretended to think about it–and the guy was surprised if not shocked by the $25 quote. Unless this was a standard routine between the two of them I kinda doubt it.

You’d think so, wouldn’t you? As I mentioned, it usually takes around 10 gallons to fill my Corolla so even if I hadn’t looked up the capacity I’d know it was somewhere over 10 gallons.