Cell phone fuel service launches in Lubbock, sparking traffic jams
Dallas-based ALON USA used Lubbock as a launch point Thursday for a new purchasing technology, and in the course of the promotion, a traffic snarl occurred at Fourth Street and University Avenue.
ALON, which operates 24 7-Eleven stores in Lubbock, chose its Texas Tech location to rollout Cellerate — a proprietary technology that allows customers to purchase gas, vending machine snacks and other products through their cellular phones.
The rollout was preceded by pep rally for the upcoming Texas Tech-Texas A&M game, where officials for the nation's largest marketer FINA refined products rolled out its techno-product along with a coupons for free gas.
Hundreds of cars, drawn by the promise of free gasoline, stretched along University Avenue north of Broadway waiting to enter the 7-Eleven Store at Fourth Street.
Department of Public Safety troopers directed traffic.
The first 250 cars received full services and 12 free gallons of gasoline.
Tech student Charlie O'Connor waited 30 minutes in line for it.
"We just walked out of class and came over here," he said.
Patricia Salas also waited about 30 minutes before getting her windshields washed and tank filled under free promotion.
"I'm getting the special treatment," Salas said, "It's very exciting."
Tech senior Joe Bias also joined the traffic jam. Still in line behind a couple of other cars, Bias said, "I've been waiting about 15 or 20 minutes."
Jeff Morris, president and chief executive officer of ALON, and a Tech graduate, said Lubbock was chosen as the first market to test Cellerate based on its student population.
Morris, who stood among a sea of cars at the test site, said ALON expects in coming days to sign up thousands of techno-savvy students, who are open to change in the way they purchase products.
ALON has partnered with Cellenium, which pioneered the technology in Israel, and Dallas-based Alliance Data Systems Corp., which will process the phone transactions.
By using Cellerate, customers can pre-purchase gasoline or just about any product attached to the technology by simply punching in a personal identification number attached to a credit or debit card, Morris said.
On Thursday, Shaul Shalev, CEO of Cellenium, demonstrated how the technology works by calling up a vending machine, which dispensed a soft drink.
Morris said ALON plans to roll out a huge marketing campaign in Lubbock to educate the public about the technology, which will be connected to other retailers and their products citywide.
ALON is now testing Cellerate at 7-Elevens at Fourth Street and University Avenue and at 19th Street & Quaker Avenue. Other stores will be rolled into the project in the weeks and months ahead.