The Swellesley Report Hard-Hitting Investigative Team has headed out in broad daylight and gotten the lowdown on how much Wellesley gas stations charge for air, that essential mix of nitrogen, oxygen, neon, argon, helium and whatever else happens to be floating around.
Most typically, gas stations in town charge 75 cents for self-service tire pumping (or whatever else you want to do with the air). This was the case at service stations along Rte. 9, such as the Shell station near Dunkin’ Donuts on Rte. 9 west…
… this Gulf station on Rte. 16 east in Wellesley Hills…
… and Patriot Petroleum on Rte. 9 west.
However, the Citgo station on Linden Street charges a buck for air…
… and the priciest air in town comes from the Mobil station at Kingsbury Street and Washington St., which charges $1 for air, or $1.50 if you put it on a charge or debit card (right across from Whole Foods). These businesses try to soften the blow by assuring customers that “a portion” of their air money will go toward an outfit called Feed My Starving Children.
While many in Wellesley probably just suck it up and pay for their air, you don’t have to go far out of your way to find free air. In fact, the first four stations I checked outside of Wellesley all offered free air. This included the Gulf station on Rte. 16 at the South Natick/Wellesley line (though their gas is pricey), the Natick Shell station on Rte. 27 near Stop’n Shop, and both Rte. 9 Hess stations in Natick.
I’ve read that some states (at least California and Connecticut) require service stations to offer air for free, at least in part to encourage drives to fully inflate their tires, for safety reasons. Although I’m told that there is no such statute in Massachusetts (inquiries into state offices such as the Division of Standards and DMV were not acknowledged). One expert told me that some communities in Massachusetts — including Lynn — have free air mandates, but that Wellesley is not among them.
If it makes you feel any better, service stations don’t make much money on air, and there are costs associated with purchasing the machines, collecting the money and operating the devices. Many stations offer free air as a way to entice customers to buy other services, but apparently not in Wellesley.
One tip: Some stations will turn on the air pumps for free if you ask, especially if you’re buying gas.