If you’ve driven past the Shell station at Powers Ferry and Roswell roads lately, you may have noticed attendants in neon green polos. But these assistants signal more than just a return to the full-service pumps of yesteryear.
The program is the brainchild of local entrepreneur Ben McFarlin. After a fatal shooting took place at the gas station in 2020, he saw a need for security at the pump. “I ran into this one young lady. She made a comment that she was afraid to go to the gas station,” he says. “She needed somebody to escort her.”
Their conversation sparked his idea to create an app, Gas Valet, that allows customers to hire help filling their tanks, then pay using a secure platform. Users can select their grade of fuel and add tips without leaving their vehicles—an especially appealing perk for the luxury cars that frequent that particular station.
During the pandemic, the valets donned masks and gloves. “It wasn’t just safety, it was cleanliness. People didn’t want to touch the pump,” says McFarlin. Recently, his app has added optional services like grabbing snacks and putting air into tires.
The valets are independent contractors, similar to rideshare drivers, and have actually used the gig for networking. One past staffer was recruited by a regular customer to work at a real estate firm. “There’s this whole stigma around it to tell somebody you work at a gas station. And they’re like, Oh, I’m so sorry for you,” McFarlin says. “But that location is magical. It’s not your typical store.”
McFarlin is looking to license the technology to gas station owners elsewhere. So, on your next trip to the pump, maybe you’ll see those green shirts, even if you’re not in Buckhead.
This article appears in our September 2023 issue.