Complaint lodged against north Ashland Shell Station

The state Attorney General's Office says it will look into the complaint of an Ashland motorist that a local gas station is charging up to $1 a gallon extra for full service without disclosing it to customers beforehand.

Motorist Rebecca O'Connell filed a complaint with the attorney general after recently being charged about $10 extra for having her windshield washed and oil checked at the full-serve lane at the Valley View Shell station at the North Ashland interchange.

O'Connell, who paid in cash, complained about the charge inside the gas station and said the owner waived the fee.

Jan Margosian, spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office, said O'Connell's complaint had been received and "we're going to look at it."

"When it comes to gas, the big thing is disclosure," she said. "They've got to disclose when there's a charge for work that normally is part of the service."

Scott Smith, manager of the gas station, said the fee has been charged for many years to cover checking oil, belts, all fluids and cleaning windshields and "people choose that if they want full serve." Smith added that customers are not told of the charge but the sign, which says only "full serve," amounts to notification.

"Yes, we've had complaints but we refund the difference and apologize if they don't see the sign," said Smith.

Asked why there is no sign disclosing the amount of the service, Smith replied, "How many signs can you put up?"

Smith said full serve is used mainly by older people who don't want to get out of their car. "They want the peace of mind," he said.

The fee varies from 50 cents to $1 a gallon and averages $8 to $12 a vehicle, he said.

Smith said the station's owner, Frank Adler, was on vacation in Hawaii. Requests that he telephone were not returned.

Based on the complaint, Margosian said the practice is "more than likely in violation of the (state) Unlawful Trade Practices Act."

"Anyone who paid for that and feels disclosure was not made can file a complaint with our Consumer Hotline, 877-877-9392, or online at," she said.

She said a pattern of complaints helps substantiate a case.

She said the state has many signage laws, especially for gas stations. In practice, it has proven "a good thing for the business when it's clear what you're getting."

O'Connor said of the transaction, "I'm very angry and feel it is deceptive, adding a charge without telling me. The public should be aware of this."

Area gasoline dealers expressed disapproval of the practice.

Walt Winblad, manager of Valley View 76 across the street, said, "It's pretty shafty. We provide the same service — oil, water and windshields — at no charge. It gives us more business, especially among the locals."

Tom O'Neill, manager of Campus Shell in Ashland, said the practice is not part of being in the Shell franchise and he knows of no other station charging such a high fee for full serve.

"We give the service, window, oil, whatever the customer asks. I think it (the $1 a gallon for full serve) is asinine. If you don't check oil and clean the windshield, you're just standing there with your thumb in your ear, so you might as well do it."

When staff provide extra service, they often get tipped, O'Neill added.

While one of the three islands at Siskiyou Auto Care is clearly labeled "full service," one motorist, Jan Gillingham of Olympia, Wash., said she was unaware of the high fee for the service.

"It's probably worthwhile because we just came through the snow," she said, "but in summer I'd prefer to pass it up."

Ken Khosroabadi, owner of Ashland Texaco at the south interchange, disparaged the practice. He said it's also a "rip-off" to post gas prices charged for those who pay in cash but to add about 10 cents a gallon for credit cards, as done by several stations in Ashland.

His station and many others post a sign saying "cash or credit same price."

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