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Bayside gas station strives to sway drivers with perks

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It’s not every trip to the pump that a gas station attendant offers you a jalapeno cheddar cheese croissant as you fill up. That may happen at the BP Connect at 218-01 Northern Blvd. in Bayside where the station is trying to woo drivers not only with hors d’oeuvres but also cleanliness, low prices, and attentive service.

“It think it’s great. It’s very clean. The service is great and the inside is beautiful,” said one customer from Douglaston. “I wish we had more gas stations like this. It’s the best one in the area.”

The attendants at the BP, which opened March 7, dress in black pants and tan collared shirts with name tags and sometimes smiley face buttons and they watch customers’ every move. One employee mans a booth to make sure all goes smoothly at the 12 self-service pumps, calling out instructions on a microphone when a customer shows the least bit of confusion.

“They have a mic for your assistance so I like that aspect,” remarked customer Abel Vigo, a social worker from Jackson Heights. “It seems clean and the pay screen seems to be very easy to use.”

The BP, which is the first of its kind in Queens, also grinds its own coffee and bakes pastries that are sold alongside the refreshments and supplies most gas stations offer. The “Connect” in the station’s name refers to the Internet “e services” machine that can be accessed for a weather forecast, driving directions, national and international news, and traffic reports. The machine also allows the motorist to rate the service, food, and cleanliness of the station.

“Someone called it the next step in the evolution of the convenience store. I know that sounds grandiose, but we’re really proud of these stations,” said Dan Larson, director of public affairs for BP America Inc. in Chicago, adding that the company expects to open more BP Connect stations in New York.

The real attraction of the station, though, might be its gas prices. Other stations in the area such as a Getty, Mobil, and Exxon on Northern Blvd. have prices seven to 10 cents a gallon higher than the BP.

Asked about the quality of BP’s service, one man commented, “I don’t care. They get cheap gas. It’s cheaper than Nassau County.”

“Prices are reasonable. It’s $1.57 over at Exxon and $1.47 here. And a 24-ounce coffee is almost 99 cents,” said Nick Cioffi, a retired postal worker from Bayside, referring to an Exxon station on Northern Boulevard. He said he planned to use the BP station again.

As national oil prices rise, customers may become choosier about where they get their gas. The average retail price of regular grade gas in New York City has risen 22 cents in the last month, according to the AAA automobile club web site. The chaotic situation in the Middle East and a risk of a short supply have buoyed prices, oil analysts said.

To be fair, the pumps at the BP have not always operated with complete ease. Two customers struggled using their credit cards to buy gas. One needed the assistance of an attendant and the other had to try another pump. Still, most people seemed pleased with the station’s efficiency.

One man, less enthusiastic about the shiny new station said, “It’s just gas.”

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