The Fantastical Second Kingdom of Jersey

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Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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  1. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I’ve heard it said that the full-serve law helps to cheap the gas prices low, as it reduces the insurance costs since you don’t have doofuses pumping their own gas. Of course, all the refineries in the northern part of the state help as well.

    WaWas are a local treasure, albeit one limited to the southern portion of the state. I didn’t learn of them or their sandwich magic until I visited friends in Maryland, believe it or not. But Zazzy and I now keep eyes peeled if our travels take us into the nether regions of the state.

    Sorry I didn’t get to catch y’all. Assuming you came no farther north than Rutgers, you didn’t even sniff the part of the state I call home… the only part really worth knowing, as far as I’m concerned. But glad you got to glimpse what we who are from here know is a pretty great place to live.Report

    • I’ve heard it said that the full-serve law helps to cheap the gas prices low, as it reduces the insurance costs since you don’t have doofuses pumping their own gas.

      I’ve heard that claim, too. I would give it more credence is full-serve wasn’t so very, very rare outside of places where it is legally required. The two reasons the natives gave me for the low prices were the refineries and that oil is one of the few things the state government doesn’t hammer with taxes.

      We actually have something similar to WaWa’s down here (Sheetz). At least I think so. The setup seems the same. I’m actually going to try it out.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Up where I am now, we have QuickChecks. They are very similar to WaWas, down to the computerized ordering, but it’s not quite up to snuff.

        I wasn’t aware of the state taxes (or lack thereof) on oil, but it wouldn’t shock me. I life just north of the NY/NJ border. The first station going south and the last station going north always have long lines. A 50-cent different per gallon for gas stations less than 5 miles apart will do that. Surprisingly, those gas stations charge just about the same as any others on about a 10 mile stretch of highway (all are within 5 cents or so); I figure they’d use their prime spot to make a bit extra. Perhaps there are other factors at play in the mystery that is NJ gas prices.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Sheetz is awesome. Great thing at 4am when you want a burger.Report

      • Living on the border of WaWa and QuickCheck territory, I have to agree that QuickCheck’s got nothing on WaWa’s sandwiches. Especially the breakfast sandwiches – I have few guilty pleasures greater than a WaWa breakfast sandwich with avocado spread, tomato, onions, ham and cheese.

        The difference in gas prices between NY/PA and NJ is, by the way, primarily because of taxes – only Alaska has lower gas taxes. PA’s gas taxes are about 20 cents/gallon higher than NJ’s and NY’s are about 36 cents/gallon higher (the third highest in the country, and more than double NJ’s).

        NJ still has, IIRC, the highest overall tax burden of any state thanks to our absurdly high property taxes.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        I call bs on nearby refineries leading to cheap gas. Here in Ak we have not only refineries but we drill the damn oil out of the ground. Our gas prices are always higher then the rest of the country.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Gotta fund that AK oil dividend somehow!

        Seriously, that does seem like shenanigans. In the continental US, gas is generally priced by proximity to source – the closer you are to the refinery or port, the cheaper it usually is.Report

      • Greginak – Wouldn’t that seem to be largely a function of Alaska’s sheer size and extremely low population density, though? The reason proximity to refineries might keep prices low would be low transportation costs (though as I suggest this is probably a fairly small portion of NJ’s lower prices, which are primarily a function of taxes), but as I understand, transporting anything anywhere in Alaska is disproportionately expensive. In NJ, by contrast, you’re never more than an hour and a half from the refineries, and the population is so dense that any given delivery truck can deliver gas to a number of stations in a given day.Report

    • Avatar dhex says:

      “he only part really worth knowing, as far as I’m concerned.”

      this is truth.Report

    • Avatar Lyle says:

      Note that one other state has the no self serve law Oregon. There you find minimum serve and regular serve pumps. Minimum just pumps the gas, regular checks oil washes windshield etc.Report

  2. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    The linked column goes on and on on on about how awful Delaware is without even one mention of You Know Who.Report

  3. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I get that Delaware had to be a state way back when.

    But if you need a place to set up your corporation with really board-favorable default laws and lack of public scrutiny by way of factual detail required in public filings, Nevada and Alaska are strong contenders for the race to the bottom. In overflights up and down the eastern seaboard, I’ve been able to discern the grayness of Delaware, cutting visibly on a north-south line bisecting the Delmarva Peninsula. What do they do to the water in Delaware that makes the land look grayer than Maryland?

    If we were constructing states today, we wouldn’t have a Delaware at all. It would just all be Maryland, except for Wilmington, which we’d put in New Jersey, and from what you describe, that would probably be a benefit to the city and its hapless residents. If we needed that fiftieth state to keep things at round numbers in the Senate, why not split up California along the thirty-sixth parallel, or maybe split up Florida at the twenty-ninth?

    In any event, one day I hope to journey to and explore this culturally diverse land called “New Jersey,” for all I have seen of it is an airport in Newark and the expressway into New York City therefrom, and a glimpse across the river whilst visiting Philadelphia. I am told that in contrast to its rather drab southern neighbor, New Jersey is quite pleasant in parts, depictions on television of amazingly awful people behaving awfully to one another notwithstanding.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      Delaware has brilliantly exploited their location. Want to drive from NY to DC without engaging a massive detour? You have to pass through Delaware. And what do you get for your trouble? A massive toll for about 8 miles of travel. Thankfully, they’ve installed EZPass Express lanes, which eliminate the massive traffic jams they also gifted travelers.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        If I want to get from NYC to DC without contending with massive traffic, shouldn’t I fly?Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        And there you see the difference between a New Jerseyite and a Californian! Of course, Amtrak is the optimal answer for NYC –> DC.

        The equivalent journey, from SF to LA (or the reverse), is technically possible via train (with at least one bus transfer), but such a complex and time-consuming adventure that you might actually get there faster on a bicycle.Report

      • Heh. Speaking of which, when are you looking to be in NYC?Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        Burt,

        I dislike the poorness of Amtrak on the West Coast. Some of my most pleasant travel experiences have been on the NY to Boston Amtrak ride.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Settled that particular case, to my great disappointment — not disappointed with the terms of the settlement which are mutually acceptable to all parties, but rather disappointed with the loss of an opportunity to visit NYC and take a deposition halfway up the Empire State Building just to say I’ve done that.

        But we have a new case involving a party with corporate headquarters in NJ germinating right now, so I may be giving you a call offline about that one should it ever blossom. It needs between six to ten weeks to see how it’s going to play out.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Which reminds me, @newdealer , it’s been several months since I’ve ranted about CalRail. Such a great idea, being so poorly executed.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        “Amtrak is the optimal answer for NYC –> DC.”

        It’s the best way to travel if someone else is footing the bill (esp if your sugarparent business is willing to pay for Acela), but for ‘optimizing’ both cash and time, the various so-called Chinatown buses are better.Report

      • I really liked the northeastern part of the Amtrak. It was the most pleasant part of Travhell 2008, and I was kind of sorry that I wasn’t able to make it round trip.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        and take a deposition halfway up the Empire State Building just to say I’ve done that.

        “Mr. Kong, to the best of your recollection, what was Ms. Wray’s reaction to that?”Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @kolohe

        I was shocked to see how cheap Amtrak fares were recently. You can go roundtrip between Newark and DC for under $150. Gas and tolls alone could cost you that much driving solo.

        Flying is hard because the airports are so hard to get to. You’d spend more total time in transit than if you just drive.

        I used to make the drive/take the bus between the two cities all the time. Zazzy and I did two years of distance DC-to-NYC and then when I moved down there, I still routinely came up to Jersey to see family.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        True Amtrak Northeast Regional service is not prohibitively expensive. It’s just that 150 bucks can buy you three round trips on the bus, and are much easier to obtain at the last minute (whereas a non-3 o’clock-in-the-morning train can’t be obtained at any price).

        (and to be sure, to go to Newark or anywhere other than Midtown Manhattan, there are much fewer choices than Midtown Manhattan)Report

      • Avatar NewDealer says:

        @kolohe

        Has the Chinatown bus fixed their safety issues?

        I like taking regional Amtrack from NYC to Boston. It is usually very relaxing and five hours of uninterrupted free time (I’ve only done it for non-work reasons). So I just get to read and enjoy the scenery and I like looking at those old Northeast factory towns for some reason. I’m at home under overcast North East/New England skies.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @newdealer

        The “true” Chinatown busses still concern me. But a number of the major carrier have opened their own discount service that is pretty reliable. For instance, I think Bolt is actually owned by Greyhound. It runs much more limited service, but faster and cheaper.

        I can’t remember which one I usually took, but it was the one that stopped most conveniently for Bethesda. For a while, it was the one owned by the Hasidim (Vamoose) but their prices kept going higher.

        My next trip to the DC area takes me to Alexandria, so a traffic-less train ride deep into the city is ideal. Plus, work is footing the bill.

        But Amtrak used to be $150 one way. Now fares are as low as $59. Good job by them.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        The feds have clamped down on most of the skeevier operators*. The business has also been around enough now to establish some ‘name brands’ (e.g. Bolt, Mega), as well as others with less marketing but a robust presence in on-line reviews.

        To be clear, yes, you have a higher chance of getting stuck in traffic (esp at each end of the trip), and if you’re not traveling with anyone, you’ll still probably be sitting next to someone in fairly narrow seats with legroom thats a crapshoot. And conducting any sort of ‘business’ much less reading a trashy novel on the Kindle is nigh impossible if your susceptible to motion sickness.

        But for those of us not pulling in the big blogging money, 🙂 it’s cheap, and you do get a good view of the Manhattan skyline going over the Weehawken ridge going to and from the Lincoln Tunnel.

        (*the industry has also mostly left (DC) Chinatown proper – which was always more of ‘old Convention Center large parking lot convenient for intercity buses and not being used for anything else’ – and have consolidated most operations near Union Station, with the completion of a new bus terminal and the closure of the old one. Plus there are other companies that operate out of Rosslyn and Bethesda)Report

      • Avatar Lyle says:

        Re Berts comments. DC to Nyc is about 226 miles while LA SF is 380 miles, Vi I -5 and 420 miles via Santa Barbara (which is how Amtrak runs, since railroads can’t do the grapevine). So it is about twice as far. (actually DC Boston is more comparable in distance). This of course is why in the days before airline deregulation when interstate flights were price controlled, there was Pacific Southwest Airlines, and intrastate only carrier with hourly flights back and forth from LA to SF.Report

  4. Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

    I never left the car in Delaware,

    Then by the rules of our household you’ve not actually been in Delaware and can’t claim it in your total states visited column. You must actually walk upon the land, or at least the asphalt.

    Curious note on Maryland/Delaware. There is a house in Delaware, hard on the Maryland border, that used to house a gang that stole slaves in Maryland after the Revolutionary War and sold them south. Allegedly the house was right on the border so they could slip back into Delaware to avoid the Maryland authorities (and perhaps vice versa as well). Despite this being the late 1700s, the gang was run by a woman, and slaves were so terrified of her that her legend was carried down to at least the early 1900s, with black parents warning their kids not to stay out late at night because that woman was out there and would steal them.

    The woman’s husband was eventually convicted and sentenced to death, although it’s uncertain whether the sentence was actually carried out. He was a great-great-great…grandather or granduncle of mine (some missing records and a plethora of same-named people make it uncertain). And that’s my charming historical connection to the Delmarva Peninsula.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I will be driving up there tomorrow night.

    I’m finding out that Baltimore isn’t entirely like what they showed on The Wire. Which is good. I’m hoping that Jersey won’t be like on The Sopranos.

    Or Game of Thrones, for that matter.Report

  6. Great seeing you last weekend, Will!

    As for Delaware, I’ve long been convinced that Delaware and Maryland are in a permanent battle to determine which state can be a more evil place. There are few experiences in life more miserable than driving through Maryland and Delaware on a summer weekend. Unfortunately for Delaware, it suffered a huge setback in its mission to out-evil Maryland when it built that brand new, shockingly pleasant, rest stop a couple of years ago.Report

  7. Avatar NewDealer says:

    New Jersey makes up for the no self-service gas pumping with lower gas taxes and this manages to create lower prices. People from NYC with cars sometimes drive to New Jersey for gas. Also because there are very few gas stations in NYC proper and they charge a lot.

    No self-service is something that I have seen drive people into very weird fits on the nets. They seem to think it is an affront. Matt Y writes about how it is economically inefficient and a sign of a poor economy, others have written about how they hate the slowness and/or social interaction. This causes a fight with people who are elderly and/or have disabilities that makes gas attendants a nice feature.

    This is one of those issues that seems to make the Internet a silly place of hyperbole. Sometimes self-service is good, other people need attendants. It should not be that complicated.Report

    • The obvious solution is to require gas stations to have at least one full-service pump. The reason it doesn’t affect gas prices much is because even in self-service stations you still need to have someone working at the station. The problem is that said person can only work so fast, and there’s no incentive to hire more people than just the one.

      The idea that I can’t pump my own gas is, in fact, ludicrous. There is absolutely no reason to have to wait 20 minutes in a line on the Turnpike just to get to a pump.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq says:

      I understand that some people might have legitimate mental illneses that make interacting with people a source of anxiety but way too many people complain about the horrible social interaction of having to ask to get your tanked filled and handing over some money. Why haven’t we had an outbreak of hikiomori in the United States. Thanks to telecommuting and the internet, nobody has to leave their home or apartment these days for the most part.Report

    • ND, I agree that sometimes self-service is neat. Though I didn’t experience it, I could also see it being a pain in the arse. It becomes a problem, to me, when the government declares that it has to be one way or the other. (Though I don’t know of any locale that out-and-out forbids attendants.)

      Mark, you still need someone working at the station, but if there is no self-serve, he can be inside working the convenience store. If you have to have self-serve, then you have to have one person working each, or you don’t have a convenience store. In a low-traffic gas station with a convenience hut, you can probably pull off both. But that’s not all that common.Report

      • Oh, absolutely, but then you need to invest capital in expanding your facilities to make room for a convenience store since very few gas stations in NJ were built with that in mind. At least, this is my best guess for why gas station owners in NJ so strongly prefer the prohibition on self-service.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      One of the questions that comes up with full-serve is whether one has to tip or not. Growing up, we never tipped. Those guys were paid to pump gas and that is what they did all day. It is my understanding that elsewhere, where full-serve is seen as a luxury, people tip because they are asking for a service that isn’t typical. Of course, all of this has been thrown off by the increased frequency of credit or debit card transactions.

      So I have never tipped for gas service. Have others?Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      I think it’s weird that this law persists. I can’t imagine that gas station attendants have a particularly powerful lobby. What’s the interest group pushing to keep this law in place?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I think most long-term residents just like it that way. It is all I knew growing up. Most people complaining are those who come from other states. But if you ask people who’ve lived in the state long term, it’s just a nice little convenience… especially on bad weather days.

        Really, the question is, what impetus is there to change it? What group is pushing for its abolishment?Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Maybe it’s inertia. What interest group is pushing for its repeal?Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        I would expect gas station owners to push to repeal it.Report

      • Brandon,
        Oregon has the same rule. Nominally it’s about safety, but in reality it seems to be about jobs. Not that gas station attendants are well organized, but as a politician your opponent in your reelection bid could point to you and claim that you destroyed something like 16,000 jobs (a reported 3800 stations in NJ * ~ 4 employees per station; and that’s probably a low estimate).

        Yes, this relies on some economic ignorance, but as seen here, that is, unsurprisingly, not in short supply.Report

      • I seem to recall that the gas station owners are actually one of the biggest forces in support of the law, and that, when there was a push to overturn it about 6 or 7 years ago, the gas station owners were a major factor in blocking the repeal.

        Here’s an article that confirms my recollection:
        http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aIMEeJpjhVZk

        It’s generally a popular policy, though I’ve always hated it, but since the gas station owners themselves are at the forefront of opposition to repeal, popular opinion isn’t terribly relevant.

        My assumption is that it would require a dramatically different business model for gas station owners, many of whom do a good chunk of the actual pumping themselves in any event.Report

      • James – the number usually thrown around is 32,000 jobs.

        Which is actually a pretty bogus argument if you’ve gotten a fillup at a local gas station in NJ – most stations only have one or two people on the job at any given time anyhow, and it’s not as if you lose the need for employees entirely if you allow self-serve; you still need people to man the register inside for cash sales and to make sure there are no drive-offs.

        My guess is that the real fear is that encouraging people to get out of their cars will make gas stations with significant convenience stores attached more attractive, forcing NJ gas station owners to adopt a business model more in line with other states. Outside of the occasional WaWa or QuikCheck gas station (which I believe are corporate owned rather than franchised, though I could be wrong), almost no gas stations in NJ have convenience stores, or at least not anything worthy of the term. But that’s just an educated guess.Report

      • Avatar Cascadian says:

        I hate this law in Oregon. The attendants are instructed to top up the tank to the point that gas dribbles down the side of the car. The only way to really avoid this is to tell them not to top it off then stand outside of the car and actually watch and remind the attendant.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @mark-thompson

        Curiously enough, if the gas station owners want it, it seems silly to require a law. If you want to go straight full-serve, just do it.Report

      • The problem with that is that while they want it, and would want to keep it in a more open market, the economic advantage would go to those that don’t do it, and they would be forced to adjust accordingly.

        I remember when a county near where I used to live started allowing alcohol sales on Sundays. The objections came from the liquor stores. As long as nobody sold on Sunday, there was no competitive advantage for selling on Sundays. But as soon as someone could, they’d lose business by not selling on Sundays. More business than they lose by people who didn’t think to buy on Saturday or couldn’t wait until Monday.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @mark-thompson

        Just saw your second comment, which makes sense. The Valero’s way up north usually have a decent attached convenient store. All of the ones on the turnpike do, but that is a controlled access road, so it makes sense to facilitate one-stop shopping. Plus the convenience store allows them to compete with the other attached eateries.

        I usually hit the second-to-last Valero on 17N before crossing into Rockland. If I need a full tank, I can actually usually run in and grab something in the store while it is being filled and get back before they’re done. If there is a long line, I won’t risk it. But I usually aim for that second-to-last one because it is less crowded than the last one.Report

      • @jm3z-aitch Reading that link hurt.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @jonathan-mcleod @jm3z-aitch

        From the link:
        “Every time you pump your own gas, you take away jobs,” said Nick Acocella, editor of Politifax, an e-mail newsletter on New Jersey politics.”

        Ugh. Look, I like the full-serve thing. But why didn’t he just go full-hack and accuse self-pumpers (heh) as being in bed with terrorists.

        Always go full-hack.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        “Every time you pump your own gas, you take away jobs,”

        And every time you pump your own, ummm, pump, you take away jobs in the sex trade.

        Jonathan, happy to help!

        Will, the same thing has occurred in some communities with Sunday car sales. If the local ban is lifted, somebody will start selling on Sunday because the others don’t want to and they’ll have that day to themselves. And so the others will have to follow suit to avoid losing business, when what they’d really like is to have one day of rest per week for themselves and their employees. And because they’re all open on Sundays, nobody’s getting anything more out of it than they got when they were closed on Sundays.

        I’m actually sympathetic to that particular case. It’s very likely that Sunday sales are a suboptimal equilibrium (at least for the sellers; not necessarily so for customers). As Jesus said, the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. I think a weekly day of rest might actually be a good thing. And as long as it’s applied evenly to all those in the relevant industry, it’s a fair regulation. I’m not sure how I’d vote if I were on a town council, but I think there is some reason behind such rules.Report

      • Curiously enough, if the gas station owners want it, it seems silly to require a law. If you want to go straight full-serve, just do it.

        My Mom lives in what is now a suburb but used to be much more rural. Like most rural towns in Nebraska, there’s a substantial number of elderly widowed women. One of the locally-owned gas station did a thriving business on Tuesdays when they pumped the gas for you. All the old widows had their tank filled on Tuesday whether they needed it or not to avoid the problems they had with self-serve. Eventually, the owner sold out and the new owner discontinued the practice.

        Over the years, I’ve stopped for lunch at most of the towns along I-80 in Nebraska. I’ve never eaten at a fast-food restaurant in any of them but what there was a table of old ladies having lunch. I asked one manager about it. “Yep. Different groups on different days, but a table like that every day. Farm husbands died relatively young and they moved to town. Every little town in Nebraska has an informal Farm Widows’ Social Club.”Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @jm3z-aitch

        The area I grew up in had some of the most restrictive blue laws in the country. Basically, the only stores that are open are food stores and pharmacies/convenience stores. Warehouse clubs have to fence off the TV sections and the like. Growing up, it was just ingrained in us that we didn’t go shopping on Sunday. When I moved out of the area, I remember scoffing at people who suggested we head to the mall on Sunday. “Sunday? You fool… it’s closed!”

        The law receives tremendous support because it keeps the area relatively traffic free on those days. It also helps mom-and-pop stores compete with the bigger retailers, since they can afford to close for a day without losing market share.

        However, it puts the county’s sizable Jewish population in a real rut, as they can’t shop on either Saturday or Sunday.

        More info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bergen_County,_New_Jersey#Blue_lawsReport

      • It’s very likely that Sunday sales are a suboptimal equilibrium (at least for the sellers; not necessarily so for customers).

        That, to me, is just crazy talk. There are two days when most working people aren’t working, and one of them is Sunday. Be closed on Monday instead.Report

      • Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

        Kazzy,

        Heh, I was confusing the Sabbath with Sunday. I say we just accept that Christians fished that up and go back to the real Sabbath. Or just agree to screw each religious group equally and make Thursday the secular sabbath.Report

  8. The thing I remember from my nearly ten years living in NJ was the surly retail help. Sometimes it seemed you had to go behind the counter and grab someone by the collar and tell them, “I’ve made my selection. Take. My. Money.” And the wait staff at sit-down restaurants — every time I was on a business trip west of about St. Louis I found myself grossly overtipping just because the help was reasonably pleasant.Report

  9. Avatar Miss Mary says:

    One benefit of living on the Oregon/Washington border is that I haven’t totally forgotten how to pump my own gas. I flip flop on the idea of having people pump for me.Report

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