A better question…who trusts you?
I live within a mile radius of two petrol stations – a BP and a Shell – and have lived here since 1985. The service stations both have multiple pumps that you operate yourself…because no-one pumps petrol for you any more. You fill your tank, or run a preset on the pump, go into the station, pay, and go away. They want you to buy chocolates, drinks, fan belts and little deodorant pine trees so they make you pass by all the goodies before you get to the pay counter, but the idea is pretty much the same for both stations.
But today a new set of signs on the outermost pumps of the BP. You must pay before you pump or leave your car keys with the attendant. This suggests that they are worried about drive-off thefts of petrol. As I had pulled up to the inner face of the outer pumps before seeing the sins I philosophically pulled my wallet out, checked that I had money, and trudged to the door.
The door didn’t open. It took a half-minute of stepping back, letting the attendant see me clearly, then stepping in…and stepping back…before the lock was released.
I wondered if there was something about my car – a green Suzuki Swift – or my appearance – 69-year-old man in plaid shirt, trousers, braces, and flat cap – that alarmed her. I asked, but she said ” No “. I paid a $ 20 bill and went back out to pump the $ 20 of petrol into the Suzuki. So far, just a minor annoyance.
Then I observed another person rock up with an old Valiant – a lovely old Valiant with custom lettering on the back of the boot lid. Glorious car. HE got to pump his petrol before going in to pay…Curious…
Then a Chinese chap and his wife arrived in a big black SUV…and the pump was not turned on for him. He footled about for a bit then drove off unsatisfied…Curiouser and curiouser…That was probably $ 100 of petrol that wasn’t sold.
I pulled away and parked in the adjacent shopping centre car park and observed the next few transactions. Some people were compelled to go inside before being able to pump petrol, and some were let through to the keeper, as it were, and could pump before paying. But there was no distinct pattern to type of car, colour of car, colour of driver, or any other criterion that would have been observable at the attendant’s window.
I was a little incensed over this discrimination at first, but now I am more intrigued as to the process of selection that is involved. What is it that triggers the attendant to demand payment beforehand rather than afterwards? Is it related to the car? Is it related to the ethnicity of the driver? Is it related to the ethnicity of the attendant? Is it related to the sex of either driver or attendant? Is it related to the time of day? BTW this was all broad daylight in an affluent suburb.
No answers yet, but I shall continue to investigate. I have a full petrol tank right now – I went over to the Shell station after this experience and did the rest of the filling. THEY don’t require you to pre-pay, leave keys, or swear allegiance to anyone – they just sell petrol. When I have used up this lot of fuel I shall try the BP again to see what they do. I am hoping for a definite pattern that can make for a workable hypothesis.