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Etiquette a Businesses With Free Charging Stations

Discussion in 'Charging Standards and Infrastructure' started by Owner, May 22, 2013.

  1. Owner

    Owner Active Member

    Dec 20, 2012
    San Francisco Bay Area
    #1 Owner, May 22, 2013
    Last edited: May 22, 2013
    Does one have any obligation to visit a business while using their free charging station?

    Is it rude to use the power at a station with no interest in the business?

    Would the decision be different depending upon the energy company?

    Would you make a perfunctory purchase in order to be polite?

    Here is the background story, earlier posted here.

    I recently went out of town for a wedding. The venue was probably within my range for driving to and from the event. I decided to top off the charge just in case. After a short bit of research, I found the most convenient charging station for my trip. The station was located at a business, which I knew very little about. In order to generalize this post, I will not name the business as it is not particularly relevant. My new Chargepoint card had already arrived in the mail, so everything was set.

    When I arrived at the station, the owner greeted me and said I was the first Model S to have visited the station. I learned that even though I needed to use the card, the energy was free. They had actually built excess solar power and were giving quite a bit of free energy back to PG&E, and did not have many people using their station. In California, PG&E is not a particularly popular business. They did ask me if I wanted to come into the business, and I said that I might upon my return.

  2. ChadS

    ChadS Petroleum is for sissies

    Jul 16, 2009
    There is obviously no legal obligation. And not even really a moral one as the host could, after all, charge for the electricity. But they went to a lot of trouble and expense to provide a free service so they can attract new customers. It is hard to get site hosts to bother to install one, so I really like to encourage the ones that do. I do think it's polite to do so.

    This is a slightly interesting case in that they have excess electricity they are already giving away. Still, the EVSE and installation cost them a lot more than the electricity.

    I always make a purchase from the site host - and thank them for installing the EVSE, so they know that's why I'm there. (If I can't buy anything - like if it's at the hotel in Yreka where I'm typically passing through in the middle of the day - I talk to the owners and give them a gift basket or something every few visits).

    If I really didn't like a hosts' goods, perhaps I would just thank them, and tell them that I'm going to make a point of telling friends that might be interested in the goods to stop by, use the charger, and buy something. And then of course I really would try to spread the word!
  3. Stephenishere

    Stephenishere Member

    May 21, 2013
    Austin TX
    I'm a business owner in the process of getting charge stations installed at my restaurants. I'm still trying to decide whether to use a company with charge cards or just use a clipper creek charger and allow whoever to use the station. I'm planning on leaving the station free for now, but idea of people abusing the station has run across my mind and definitely made me hesitant on doing completely free stations. The reason why I'm fine with doing free charging for now is because I'm sure most people who will use it are going to be patrons who will eat at my store. Besides that Im sure the vast majority of the time it'll be just my car that uses the station, which is the main reason I don't feel like bothering with an expensive to install pay system.

    In say a situation where a person is driving through town outside of business hours and needs to use the station, no big deal. I don't want people getting stuck out on the road without power. I just don't want people to try and use it as their daily source of charge or regularly come by and not eat at the restaurant.

    My two cents at least...
  4. AudubonB

    AudubonB Mild-mannered Moderator Lord Vetinari*

    Mar 24, 2013
    "It's okay to use the can at McDonald's or (fill in the blank) without patronizing them because, after all, they already had to provide it."

    Does that seem right? What would your grandma say?

    Here's a slightly different take, much closer to home. For years - and, as far as I am concerned, still today - access to electricity was/is a matter of (vehicular) life and death up here in the North Country. Most especially for those of us running diesels, you have to plug in when stopping overnight during the winter. A block heater consumer 1 -1.5kWh.

    So if as often can be the case, you roll in to Otter Snot, Yukon at midnight, you would scope out the garages, etc., for an outlet, plug your truck in and go to sleep in the front or back seat (a friend of mine always slept under his truck, even at thirty below...). And you either would place a $5 bill atop the outlet or make absolutely sure you stop inside come morning and pay at least that.

    I see no difference in the cases above. Patronizing that establishment is just as appropriate a measure, of course.

    One more thing about life up here: you never, ever go in to use the facility at any of our roadhouses or other remote-location establishments without purchasing something. And if it's an establishment frequented by tourists, who might not understand this etiquette, just about without exception every single such place will unhesitatingly have a sign notifying you of just that.

    People, it's common decency​!!!!!!!!
  5. Doug_G

    Doug_G Lead Moderator

    Apr 2, 2010
    Ottawa, Canada
    I always try to do business with the owner of the station, if I'm getting free power. Occasionally that is not possible; for example, there's a hotel that I've used a few times for charging but I was just on my way through, and they don't have a restaurant. There wasn't really any way I could spend money there unless I stayed for a night. They were great about it, and told me it was no problem, but I didn't feel good about it. So I rearranged one of my trips so I could spend a night at that hotel. It's a nice hotel and I plan to stay there again.

    We have a charge station at my business. It is highly unlikely that we'll ever have an actual customer charge at the station, since we are mostly an export business and a very tiny percentage of our customers are within driving distance. We're making it available it to support the EV community. We're happy to host you and don't expect anything in return.

    Unfortunately some people do abuse others' generosity. We found we had a leech, who was spending an hour and a half or more every night charging on our station. Turns out he could easily charge at home, but he apparently only wants to charge his shiny new Ford Focus EV with free power. I see no absolutely reason to subsidize his driving to the tune of $60 a month. I told him to charge at home. (I've since heard that he's been spotted using the free Chargepoint station every night at the local Mountain Equipment Co-op. Sheesh.)

    So, the upshot is, I think it's important show your appreciation - and if at all possible to demonstrate a business case for making a charge station available.
  6. Oyvind.H

    Oyvind.H Member

    Aug 17, 2012
    Oslo, Norway
    I would definitively give some business to stores who install free chargers. I`ve recently been on a couple of 80 miles + trips with a Leaf, and when using CHAdeMO outside cafes I purchase something. Last time I bought a soda, but in my defense a small soda cost $7 :)
  7. Owner

    Owner Active Member

    Dec 20, 2012
    San Francisco Bay Area
    This discussion is helpful and even more complex.

    My situation was a "one-off" or maybe "once a year" thing if I visit my friend again. They also have excess power at the business, so there was no net charge. The cheapest item to buy there is $35 but maybe they have some small doodad I could buy. I didn't have time upon my return to go inside as it was a very busy day, but I will make an effort next time I encounter this situation as I don't want to be a free-loader. I was a little caught off guard as I expected to pay for the power. Even then it did cross my mind that I was using a station that potentially another EV user might need who was actually going to patronize the business.

    The tricker situation though becomes with Stephen's restaurant business. I don't know where your restaurants are located. Are there other restaurants nearby or is yours at least somewhat isolated? I'd worry about freeloaders parking at your station and then patronizing elsewhere.

    I have met two other Model S owners in person who have been using the superchargers and a free public charging station in leu of charging at home. One lived at an apartment and the other had not yet installed solar panels and was trying to save a few bucks. I was a little surprised at both situations. Depending upon a supercharger seems like a big hassle and inconvenience, and trying to save a few bucks at a municipal facility didn't feel right either, although the person in question does pay taxes directly.

    I think we have lost a lot of decency in our culture now, unfortunately. And my grandma wouldn't have said anything, but that is another story! Maybe that is why I am am asking etiquette questions? :confused:

    How about if the charging station was a fee based one in front of a business do I still need to partake in the business?
  8. loganss

    loganss Spaceman

    Mar 6, 2011
    I also usually try and buy something from the business that offered the free charging or at least say thank you. Local Walgreens and MOMs stores have been getting more of my business because of this.

    It's definitely not cool to use a free station daily to avoid plugging in at home. That's a quick way for free stations to become paid stations.
  9. ItsNotAboutTheMoney

    ItsNotAboutTheMoney Well-Known Member

    Jul 12, 2012
    I think that for a restaurant it would be easy enough to have switches inside if it's patrons only. Out of hours, just flip them on.
  10. gaswalla

    gaswalla P4201/85/airsusp/pano/19i

    Sep 23, 2012
    San Diego
    When on road trips, I believe it's a nice thing to give the charging station owner first crack at any business you may have. No obligations, but definitely give them the business if possible.
    what irritates me are when local folks (smaller Ev's always) come to these nice merchants to charge routinely instead of charging at home.. This behavior ruins it for everyone.
  11. bonnie

    bonnie Oil is for sissies.

    Feb 6, 2011
    Columbia River Gorge
    Maybe a different situation, but PG&E pays me for my excess power. It shows as a credit on my bill. So while they may not pay for someone using their charger, they likely receive a smaller credit. Net result is that they've paid for someone to charge there.

    I had to charge my Roadster by a restaurant one time & just wasn't hungry at all. It was a small business (not a chain) & I was charging during the peak time of day (meaning it was costing the owner a fair amount for me to charge). I went in, had an iced tea, wrote a really good review on Recargo, showed the owner where his business was getting a little publicity. And on my way out, I left a thank-you card with some money tucked inside.

    Just because it's free doesn't mean I shouldn't pay when appropriate.
  12. DavidWexler

    DavidWexler Member

    Dec 12, 2012
    So. California
    I think our obligation is directly proportional to the price of goods or services being sold at the establishment with the charger. If they are selling a $2 cup of coffee, it would be tacky to take a bucks worth of juice. On the other hand, if they are selling $1,200 (insert goods / services) giving away even a full charge worth of juice is the price they're willing to pay to lure you into their establishment in hopes there is a business relationship to be developed. Shops selling low ticket items may have a bowl of free mints on the counter, while casinos might give away free rooms, meals and even luxury cars. And other businesses may be pay-as-you-go with everything. I think over the next few years we're going to see all kinds of interesting revenue models around charging stations. We'll see coupons, prepaid cards, discounts, offers, redeemables and refunds. A mall or large shopping center will be happy to give you a few bucks of free juice along with preferred parking because they know what you are going to do while you're charging up.... shop. However, tying up the one and only charger at a mom-and-pop establishment for hours on end, without making a purchase, is just plain inconsiderate all the way around. So please be aware of this ratio, and act accordingly. Us early adopters are setting the etiquette precedences today. Analysis of Tesla's Supercharger network is also an interesting discussion, however I'll leave that for another thread.

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