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Coulson Sees Costly Changes Ahead for Gas Stations

2 min read

Beginning in October 2017, pay-at-the-pump gas stations will be required to use machines that accept EMV credit cards, a potentially expensive adjustment, according to Coulson Oil Co. Chairman Mike Coulson.

EMV credit cards use a chip rather than a magnetic strip and make it more difficult for data to be stolen or used fraudulently. However, they require a different card-reading mechanism.

Coulson, who spoke at the Little Rock Rotary Club’s weekly luncheon on Tuesday, said the gas pump must be completely replaced if it is more than 10 years old in order to use a new card reader.

Each new pump costs about $20,000. That means a station with eight pumps could incur costs of about $160,000 for these updates if its pumps are out of date.

“Some stations are just going to duct tape the card slots on the old machines and say come inside and pay,” Coulson said. “But that’s not very convenient for the customers.”

Coulson also said that he believes the trend for gas stations is now bigger locations rather than small, four-pump stops, which fill up too quickly with customers.

He called these “bigger-box” stores, and said they have invaded the space of smaller locations. He also said the bigger stations are often able to charge slightly less, drawing more customers.

Coulson also noted dramatic changes in the oil industry over the last half-century.

“If you go back 40 years, the U.S. was running out of oil,” he said. “The U.S. is now the world’s leading crude oil producer. We don’t need it from anyone else.”

He said prices for crude oil bottomed out recently at $20 per barrel and they are now at about $40 per barrel.

“Gasoline prices rise like a rocket and fall like a feather,” Coulson said. “Now we know our competitors’ prices without having to drive by like we did 20 years ago.  The prices are changing every day.”

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