BY BRIAN BONITTO Associate Editor — Auto and Entertainment firstname.lastname@example.org
TO some it may have sounded like hot air, but it is now a reality. The first coin-operated air pump has been installed in Jamaica.
Two years ago, Trevor Heaven — former Jamaica Gasolene Retailers Association (JGRA) president and principal of Heaven's Service Centre in Manchester — announced that pay-for-air pumps were the way of the future. Today, one is installed at his establishment.
"It was installed just before Christmas, in the second week of December; in fact, on December 8. It's the first one in the island," Heaven told Auto. "So far, persons have been warming up to it."
The JGRA former head said for $30 a customer gets four minutes of air.
"You can purchase a token from the attendant, place in the slot and you're good to go. It's a simple operation," he said.
Heaven declined to say how much the pump costs. But he opted to say others would be soon installed in Kingston, in Spanish Town and Portmore in St Catherine, and in Montego Bay, St James.
"Five were purchased at the National Association of Convenience Stores trade show in Las Vegas in September 2012. They'll be up and running soon," he said.
The gas retailer said the pump took four to five hours to be installed and uses the existing infrastructure. He also said adequate electronic and other spare parts were purchased to ensure there is never a disruption of service.
"We [gasolene retailers] believe these pumps selected are best to suit our conditions. They are robust, stainless steel, sturdy and tamper-proof," said Heaven, who has been in the gasolene retail business nearly three decades.
"No longer will customers be driving around in search of a working air pump," he continued.
Finding operational air pumps at service stations islandwide has been a sore point for motorists in recent times.
Speaking with Auto in 2011 as JGRA president, Heaven said due to high electricity costs and constant vandalism of air pumps some retailers found it unprofitable to provide air. He said it could cost a retailer up to $250,000 annually to keep a dispenser fully operational.
At the time, he said gasolene retailers had been in discussion, three years prior, and the decision was made to head in the direction of coin-operated air pumps.
"I know this is a sensitive issue, but it is the way of the future," he said, adding that coin-operated air dispensers are found throughout the United States and several other metropolitan areas of the world.