You must have heard of consumers getting cheated at petrol pumps. Social media, after all, is full of such first-person narratives. You may also know a person who had had such an experience recently, but have you ever wondered whether you have fallen victim to such a scam?
If you drive a car and get it filled from various petrol stations, it is likely that you have been cheated of your hard-earned money by a greedy petrol pump owner or manager.
Here is how it is usually done:
The Tango Trick (Manual Turnover)
You go to a petrol station and ask the attendant to fill up your car for ‘X’ rupees. The attendant then approaches the pump, presses a few buttons on it, taps on your window, and asks you to “check zero meter” lifts the nozzle and inserts it in your car. The attendant then starts filling up the tank, while your eyes are glued to the meter. While you are watching the ticking meter, there is another knock on the window, and it’s another attendant asking you whether you want your car’s front windshield cleaned. By the time you look back at the ticking meter, it has stopped.
So, what had happened there?
Before the time the second attendant knocked on the door, the meter was ticking at a normal pace. When the second attendant knocked on your door, and you took your hawk eyes away from the meter, the meter started ticking at lightning speed and completes its run.
The ‘No Click’ Trick
Petrol pumps are equipped with the latest equipment, including petrol pumps with automated nozzles. These have a trigger lock, which when switched on, stay on till there is a flow of fuel in the pipe and automatically turns off when the fuel flow stops. There is nothing wrong with this till a greedy petrol pump owner or manager decides to take undue advantage of this feature.
You park your car next to a pump and ask for petrol. You go through the all too familiar routine of checking zero meter, and the attendant starts pumping in fuel. The pump then stops when a certain amount you had asked for shows on the meter. On the face of it, everything went fine, and you weren’t cheated. But you were.
Did you know that the attendant is supposed to take off his hands after setting the auto-lock on the nozzle and only touch it again once there is an audible ‘click,’ which indicates the pumping process has stopped? There is a time-lag of 3-4 seconds between the click and meter stoppage. The pump keeps sending the fuel in these few seconds because it has to empty all the fuel in the (nozzle to pump) connecting tube and the meter has already billed you for it. But, since many of us don’t know about it, we never look at the attendant’s hands and instead keep starring at the meter. And as soon as the meter stops, the attendant manually overrides the auto-trigger and switches the nozzle off (while some of the fuel is still in the fuel tube). He then places the nozzle back. The fuel that you paid for but never got in your car’s tank now goes back to the petrol station’s tank.
This trick is also fairly simple to pull off and common these days.
Here is how it works:
You go to a petrol station and ask for petrol worth Rs.1000. After going through the usual routine of checking “zero meter,” the attendant starts filling up the tank but stops when the meter shows Rs.200. When you tell him that you had wanted petrol worth Rs.1,000, he apologizes and says that he thought he heard you say Rs.200. By this time, you are not looking at the meter but having a conversation with the attendant. At this moment, another attendant/supervisor jumps in the conversation. The first attendant then goes back to the pump, while you are explaining what had just happened to the supervisor. By this time, the first attendant has already pumping petrol in your car without you looking at the meter. In this case, the meter is never reset, and it stops at Rs.800. Once you point out the figure, the attendant assures you that he had reset the pump and that now you’ve got petrol worth Rs.1,000.
How Not to Fall Victim to Such Tricks
The fraudsters will do what they do, but what are you doing to protect yourself?
Here are the eight most useful tips to stay protected from such fraudulent tricks:
- Always check ‘zero’ on the meter, even if the petrol pump is overcrowded. Ask the petrol attendant to step aside from the meter. Preferably step outside of your car and stand next to the fuel attendant.
- Ignore any attendant at the station who tries to strike a conversation with you and instead keep your eyes on the pump.
- Do not give money to the attendant, even if you are in a rush, while the meter is still running.
- Once you check the “zero meter” make sure it remains ‘zero’ until the nozzle is inserted and the auto-nozzle has been switched on.
- If you prefer to sit in the car, keep looking at the meter during fueling and pay close attention to the hands of the fuel attendant.
- If the pump stops pre-maturely, pay close attention to the meter, and do not lose your concentration.
- Try to get your refill in liters (Not in Rupees).
- If you must get your refill in rupees, then get it in odd numbers and not even numbers.
Such scams are run at a minority of petrol stations, owned by greedy owners or managers; a majority of petrol stations would give you your fair share of fuel. However, it is this tiny minority which gives a bad name to others, so one must stay vigilant.
Zimmedar Shehri Helpline: If you have experienced such a scam, report the petrol station at 0800-02345.