Gas Station Etiquette: No Hugging, Apparently

Weird things happen to me at gas stations.

I want to talk about the latest one here and get feedback on whether you think I did the right thing, or if I deserved the absolute tongue-lashing given to me by a 60-something gentleman waiting for a pump in his Toyota Highlander.

OK, here’s the story:

I was at Costco with my family on President’s Day, heading toward the fuel pumps to fill up my wife’s car before her work week started. She was driving. The station was busy, with lines 2 to 3 cars deep on most pumps. I spotted an open pump in front of a Jeep Wrangler, with the Highlander waiting behind it. I pointed it out to my wife.

The Highlander driver could have pulled up past the Wrangler, then backed into position at the open pump. He either didn’t see the open pump or was content to just wait for the Wrangler to leave. I told my wife to go to the open pump. She did.

When I got out to swipe my debit card, a gruff voice suddenly appeared behind me. I turned around to see the gentleman from the Highlander, fuming.

He said, “That wasn’t a very kosher thing to do, you idiotic [insert really bad name here].”

No one had ever yelled at me at a gas station before, and I was a little taken aback.

“Umm,” I said, “I’m sorry, sir, I saw an open spot, and you didn’t take it, so I thought I would.”

I hardly finished my sentence before more obscenities came pouring from his mouth, interspersed with something about not learning how to share in grade school and threats that I am probably going to be killed for pulling stuff like that.

I didn’t know what to say. Other customers were staring. The Costco attendant awkwardly took a step in our direction, but then decided not to intervene.

I wasn’t sure how to respond.

So I opened my arms and offered the guy a hug.

I thought it was funny and would defuse a tense situation, but it just made him more mad. He declined my offer and turned back toward his car, shouting words about me I was glad my kids couldn’t hear. (Turns out seeing an angry old man decline a hug is actually pretty funny.)

A customer at the pump next to me popped his head over and said he was sorry the guy was talking to me like that. I politely thanked him.

Of course Highlander guy heard that and then called us both names his mother wouldn’t be happy to hear.

My tank filled up without further incident, the station attendant never said a word, and my family and I drove off with a good lesson on how not to act toward people.

I do still wonder though, was I right to take the space in front of the Wrangler while the Highlander waited? He had the first chance, but didn’t take it.


Find Certified Pre-Owned Cars and Used Cars in your area at CarGurus.

Used Jeep Wrangler
Used Toyota Highlander

Shopping for a new vehicle?
Bring along CarGurus’ mobile app to help check prices, find good deals, and research cars on your smartphone.


  1. I don’t believe you did anything wrong. Costco gas stations are known for their quick Fill and Go. This incident just happened to me about an hour ago at the Costco in Dana Point, CA. The person behind me in a white Jeep was in the middle of pumping his gas. The spot in front of him just became open. I waited about 10 seconds and no one made a move to move in that spot so I did. Boy, did I receive a tongue lashing from the guy behind me. I was stunned but remained quiet. The petulant late 50’s man (I am 51) kept on and on. He went so far as to try to embarrass me with other patrons. All remained quiet except a person saying “bring out the phone (for video)”. I suppose he could have told the person behind him that a spot was open in front of him but chose not to.
    As the guy left he honked his horn for 7 seconds to gain attention. Altogether, the fill up time was 3 minutes. I suppose this person is so wound up tight but first come first served and sorry for the person who waits and misses an opportunity.

  2. He was waiting his turn like he was supposed to and you were breaking in line. He was right and you were wrong.

  3. That just happened to me. Except when the lady came to my door, I asked if she wanted to move, so I moved to the next open spot parallel and thought it was over. Then she kept yelling at me about it. I was able to fill up and get out before her. I am not sure what the problem was. I was there before her, I didn’t think she was going to back up and go around to take it. So I made a diagonal to take the spot. My thought was that after I moved to give her the spot, it should have been over.

  4. You had every right to take that pump and kudos to you for taking the verbal abuse so well. There are a lot of crazy people who might have beat him up or worse.

  5. I can understand how the crowds at Costco can make oneself less than calm. The parking lots at Costco are two way and I took a left down a lane with parking lots on both sides to get towards the exit. There was a cow, and I dont use that word lightly, in a Suburban literally sitting in the middle of the lane. No indication, nothing just sitting there blocking traffic. I am now sitting about 30 feet from the cows bumper and give the universal ‘furrowed brow arm raise’ what the hell are you doing silent question. The cow shrugs back and smiles, which of course infuriated me even more.
    At this point I realize the cow is waiting on someone to reverse out of a spot. Of course this being Texas everyone is in slow motion and mildly retarded so the people in the spot are taking their time.
    Of course none of this necessitates blocking the entire two way parking lane. So I make the universally recognized hand signal to: ‘move your cowmobile back a little so I can get past you as the person in the parking spot is not moving’ coupled with slight forward motion to push the point home. The cow just got an ever larger shit eating grin on her face as she realized for the first time in her pathetic existence that she had something approximating power over another human being.
    So despite a honk and me swearing directly at the cow while looking her in the face. She kept her fat, ugly, self blocking the parking lane while some moron slowly loaded mixed nuts into their slobmobile at a glacial pace.
    If there hadnt been someone in the car with me I probably would have done something stupid but my God that thoughtless cow is on my top ten list of all time worst people. The nerve to see through such a selfish action for a good 4 minutes when the whole thing could have been resolved by moving forward or back 15 feet is unreal. She deserved a beating and I’m sad I couldnt give it to her.

  6. Travis,
    You were right and reasonable. It sounds like that the sixty year old chucklehead was at the Costco in Irvine, California. I’m waiting in the Costco gas line on a hot Southern California spring day. The forward car leaves the front pump. At the back pump, an old man (dressed in a heavy coat with a wool scarf, goofy looking ball cap, leather gloves and Mr. Magoo sun glasses) is pumping gas in his A6 Audi sedan. As I am getting ready to go drive to the forward pump, this selfish, over induldged old man moves from the pump to the driver’s side of his car and opens the door to block me from driving to the forward pump. Next, he returns to the pump standing with his back to me. Thinking quickly, I drive around gas pump island and reverse into the pump spot which is blocked by the old man (Mr. Magoo). While I’m pumping gas, Mr. Magoo yells, “You couldn’t wait, you asshole! You’re blocking my car” I retort, “I didn’t break any rules and I’m within the painted lines . . . what’s the problem.” The old man puffs himself up to look menancing and yells, “You better move!” As I’m laughing (because I was threatened by Mr. Magoo – the cartoon character), I reply, “Give me break!” The old man is cursing to himself and moves forward as if he is going to “kick my butt!” Now picture this in your mind, you have Mr. Magoo dressed for winter on a very hot day in Southern California while I’m dressed in shorts and polo shirt coming to “kick my butt!” I’m really laughing now and I tell him, “Give it up!” Now, old man pride and pettiness are the very essence of Mr. Magoo. I drive a Subaru Forester which has 180,000 miles which has seen dirt and snow filled roads. Mr. Magoo drives as close to my car as possible without hitting it to show that he is still a manly, man! This old man wants to bait me, but I’m waving and laughing at him as he drives by. I’m really hoping that he hits or scratches my car because the driver’s side needs new paint! Alas, this Mr. Magoo causes no damage (Rats!). My girlfriend and the other COSTCO customers are wondering why Mr. Magoo this still has his California driver license: Final Score: Mr. Magoo – Selfish, over induldged cheap old man fails at his block. Tom – A Great Laugh! Lessons Learned – Old Men that look like Mr. Magoo are not necessary kindly, old men.

  7. I just went throught the exact same thing. I was waiting for a pump to open. The station was packed. I saw an opening in front of a car, but it was opposite my direction. So I pulled a quick U-turn and backed my car in. Just as I was getting out of the car, a girl pulls up and honks at me. Saying that she had been waiting. I told her I didn’t see her. The spot was open for a good 10 seconds before I decided to break my U-turn.
    So I told her that I’d be quick. Then her passenger male friends yells out, “Yeah. More like prick !”
    Then as I’m pumping my gas, the customer next to me on the other side of my pump tells the girl in the van, “What can you do? He’s an ass. Hopefully he’ll have a shitty day.”

    I just couldn’t belive my ears. Getting so worked up over a gas pump. And the outsider getting involved for no reason. Just plain ridiculous. Needless to say, I took my sweet ass time.

    I don’t think I did anything wrong. I REALLY didn’t see her waiting. The spot was open for about 10secs before I moved in. I didn’t see anybody make a run for it, so I did.

    • It amazes me how so may people get worked up over a gas station spot, parking spot! Some people who yell and scream is just puffery. Now, if they touch you (doubt that would happen) it’s time to defend yourself. These examples of anger illustrate just how much stress there is in a crowded society. So much do that I rarely engage with people because some people just suck.

  8. Not smart pulling in front of a Toyota, they have brake/acceleration problems, or haven’t you heard?

  9. I was rear-ended by a woman in wet weather: she skidded into me, and the impact caused me to spill hot coffee all over myself and the interior of my car. When I got out of my car yelling and angry, she did the same thing. She gave me a hug. It really diffused the situation. How can you stay angry when a person is hugging you with kindness? Don’t know how that guy did it!

  10. Brooke’s story is marvelous and too typical. In some movie theaters I’ve seen (and in waiting for an airline ticket agent to open up) the protocol is to form a single line and go to the next available counter. Miss Piggy tried to take a grocery store situation and force that. What a pig! Travis’s situation was a little more ambiguous, but I would have done the same thing. Too bad his wife didn’t get a photo of the attempted hug.

  11. Travis, I too have had a similar situation at the drive-thru tellers at my bank. My short answer to you ( in my opinion ) as to being right in taking the empty spot would be yes, and no. When I went to make a deposit at my bank the other day I noticed that all three windows were occupied and there was a car waiting in the middle of the drive. Instead of picking a lane and waiting, this woman was “hogging” the whole area so that she could just pull into the next avail. lane. I was initialy going to pull around her to take a lane and wait, but I knew what her intentions were and just decided to wait behind her. Let me say that I don’t agree with her tactic. When you go to the grocery store you pick a line and wait…you don’t just hover around and run to whatever opens up first having no regard to the other folks waiting. Right? So anyway, as we’re waiting another customer comes up behind us and pulls around the “hogger” and straight into a lane that was just opening up! The hogger laid on the horn and almost tried to ram her! I was glad that this new lady had gotten the spot instead of Miss Piggy. At that point I pulled around and picked my lane, leaving the hogger no choice but the middle. When she pulled up she got out of her car and started threatening to beat the other woman! I absolutely couldn’t believe that someone would get so worked up over a spot in the drive-thru! So I guess I would say that you had every right to the empty spot, ( just as I had every right to pull around the hogger ) but the courteous thing would have been to wait since you knew his intentions. Afterall, maybe since he was old he doubted his backing abilities and was afraid to pull forward and back in. Lol! You never know! I’m glad you offered him a hug though. I would have loved to have seen that!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.