Sadly, as if the skyrocketing price of petrol isn’t enough, the ‘friendly’ fuel station attendants have found numerous tricks to add to their regular income, and undercut the customers who at the first place are paying through their noses.
The nefarious activity perpetrated by petrol attendants nationwide has gone unnoticed by many motorists as they drive into the filling stations to fill their tanks.
Fuel Station scams are not something new. There are plenty of foul plays which can leave you cheated at a fuel station.
Why do the petrol attendants cheat you?
First of all, the petrol attendants in Nigeria are one of the least paid in the country, infact an average petrol attendant is paid between ₦10,000 – ₦15,000 monthly, but a smart attendant can make his salary in one day by cheating customers.
Ideally, when a petrol attendant resumes for work, he/she takes the reading on the meter on the fuel dispenser, which they call The Opening Meter, and after they close for the day, the reading on the meter, called The Closing Meter is taken by the attendant. Then, they multiply the difference in the readings by the cost per litre, which is the amount they deliver to the manager. If there is any surplus cash, the attendant takes it.
Unfortunately, the surplus money is simply a product of manipulation/cheating of petrol buyers by the fuel attendants on a daily basis.
How Nigerian Petrol Attendants Cheat Customers In Filling Stations
I have compiled a list of some of the most common dirty tactics which are used to cheat customers at Nigerian fuel stations based on my research and conversation with some petrol attendants across the country.
TRICK 1: Recall or TIM/CAL button
On the fuel dispenser there is usually a button labelled ‘Recall, TIM/CAL’ or any other label, depending on the machine. The essence of the button is to enable the attendant to see the past sales.
If you want to see your last ten sales, you just press Recall, then the number you want to see etc, depending on the number you want, and it shows you the amount.
Beyond seeing past sales,petrol attendants use it to cheat and make money from the customers.
For example, if a petrol attendant sold ₦5,000 worth of fuel to (Customer A), and the next customer (Customer B) also wants to buy ₦5,000., the attendant will clear the screen to ₦00.0 and tell Customer B to look at it (A way of gaining your trust and making you relax) then when they observe that the second customer (Customer B) Isn’t paying attention, they will sell some quantity, like ₦3,500 for example and press Stop or Cancel, depending on the machine, then press Recall 1, and Ok,With that, ₦5,000 will appear on the screen and that is what the customer will see on the meter, believing the sale is complete, meanwhile the attendant recalled the previous sale.
My investigations revealed that this can be done in less than one second.
Infact, some attendants could go to the extent of writing out some past sales on a paper where they can easily have a glance to know which number to recall when a customer is distracted or looks away, since many people prefer to buy based on price and not litre.
For example Recall 1 can be ₦5,000, Recall 2 – ₦3,000, Recall 3 – ₦2,000, so based on the customer they want to cheat, they look at the paper to recall, and the customers would think the machine was fast, so they wouldn’t always suspect anything.
TRICK 2: Fake hang the nozzle
Almost every petrol consumer is knowledgeable that when the nozzle is hanged on the pump, the readings revert to zero. Thus the fuel attendants have also found a way to manipulate it to make some money for their pockets.
What they do is that they gently hang the nozzle, such that it won’t click to rub off the old sales and revert to zero, so,they fake hang the nozzle,while the dispenser is still running, so if a new customer comes, they simply continue from where they stopped from the previous customer.
This trick is used a lot during fuel scarcity, or when customers are in a hurry to buy fuel.
This trick is also easier for the fuel attendant if the last sale was in a small quantity.
TRICK 3: The Okada/Keke Napep advantage
Most times, the Okada and Keke Napep’s tend to buy petrol in small quantities, for example like 2 or 3 Litres of fuel.
After dispensing fuel for the Okada/Keke Napep, if the next buyer intends to buy fuel in his car or a big jerry can, the fuel attendant will use the Okada/Keke Napep advantage, because of the small quantity sold previously and continue to dispense fuel into your car tank without clearing the previous sale.
For example, if the previous sale to an Okada, Keke Napep or even a commercial bus is about ₦350, the fuel attendant will gently place the nozzle, and naturally, when the next customer (The Car owner) sees that the attendant removed the nozzle from the dispensing machine, he believes that it started from zero. However, it is not always the case, thus the car owner is automatically cheated by ₦350.
TRICK 4: The Fill up your tank system
“More importantly, the car needs space in its tank for fuel vapours to expand. Overfilling can force gas into the car’s carbon filter, leading to poor performance, reduced mileage or costly repairs. So, the next time you want to buy fuel, don’t top off your tank, it’s good for your car and even better for your wallet,” the report said.
TRICK 5: The faulty meter
Some petrol pumps have rigged meters that start ticking even before petrol starts to flow from the hose. Have you ever gone to a filling station to buy fuel and it takes lesser time to fill your tank, compared to other places? This is as a result of the meters that have been tampered with, the attendant will make you believe the particular fuel dispenser is faster or slower than normal, depending on how the meters were manipulated.
Nigeria’s petroleum regulator, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) saddled with the responsibility of regulating, monitoring and enforcing the laws in the sector, used the Seraphin Can to expose filling stations involved in the nefarious act in Lagos recently.
The ten-liter Seraphin Can is used by the DPR to ascertain the exact dispensing meter measurement of filling stations. When filled to the level of ten liters, dispensing meters that have been adjusted will show above ten liters on the display board. When this occurs, the filling station is shut by DPR officials.
DPR said over 500 filling stations had been shut for under-dispensing and other related offences.
TRICK 6: Using Unnecessarily Longer Dispenser Pipe
A perfectly good meter will show that a certain amount of petrol has been pumped out, but that amount hasn’t reached your tank — some of it is still in the pipe, and it goes back into the pump. Through the day, the number of litres that stations save can be enormous, making the attendant accumulate surplus cash from undispensed fuel.
TRICK 7: Get friendly, distract and cheat
How many times have you visited the filling station and you notice that the fuel attendant is trying to chat you up. If he is not talking about the government, religion or politics, he is most likely to dive into football, especially if he noticed you are a fan of a particular club.
‘Oga mi up Arsenal o, me i be Barcelona fan, we go beat Arsenal all the time’
The trick is to make you get very comfortable, argue with him and take your eyes off the fuel meter.
Sometimes the attendant can even get his colleague to distract you, so he can focus on fuel pump to cheat you.
He can ask you questions like..
‘Sir/madam do you need engine oil’ or ‘Sir you need to balance your wheels’
TRICK 8: Pretend not to hear you, fake ignorance, smile, apologize
This is another trick used by fuel attendants, when you request to fill up your car or
jerrycan for a particular amount, for example ₦4000, the attendant will sell only ₦1000 worth of fuel, when you ask him why he didn’t fill up for ₦4000, the attendant will apologize and smile innocently and say that he/she heard you say you wanted to buy ₦1000 worth of fuel, and thus pretend to continue filling the remaining ₦3000, by pretending to reset the meter and fill up your ₦4000 worth of petrol and so you pay ₦4000
But the attendant just cheated you, and this is how…
He did not reset the meter to ₦0.00 , he continued from the ₦1000 point till he got to ₦3000, so in reality you only get the petrol worth ₦3000, but pay ₦4000
TRICK 9: Intervening the Dispenser Nozzle
It is generally found that the pump attendants keep their fingers tight on the nozzle and interrupt the flow of fuel manually. In this way, the required amount of fuel gets short. With these type of tricks, the pump staff saves probably litres of oil in a single day that accumulates to his personal surplus profit for the day.
TRICK 10: Fuel Adulteration
The simplest and the most effective way of cheating used by almost all the petrol pumps is the adulteration of fuel. Usually, the dealers chemically adulterate the petrol by adding Naphtha, which is a byproduct and is as dense as petrol. It does not leave residue and is cheaper than its counterpart.
TRICK 11: Two sides of price indicators
In this particular trick, manipulations are done by pump attendants who normally strike when motorists are preoccupied with other thoughts. Most times, pump attendants are so daring.
Motorists should be more careful with pumps that have two sides of price indicators—back and forth screen, displaying amount of money dispensed.
For several reasons, some of which are technical, each side of the screen could show a different price. For example, ₦5000 and the other screen could display about ₦4000.
If you requested to buy fuel worth ₦5000 and the a buyer from other side of the pump is also buying ₦5000 worth of fuel, if you are not watching close enough, a crafty attendant can dispense fuel worth ₦4000 and point to the other side pump, hoodwinking you into believing that he/she has dispensed the amount you required, meanwhile you have lost ₦1000 as the price indicator was for the other pump.
Now to counter these 11 tricks above, here are some of the counter-tricks or precautions to cut the cheating attendants
- Always, get off from your car, lock the vehicle and stand close to petrol tank and see the meter readings when buying fuel
- Check the meter reading after opening the petrol tank or before fueling starts and again at the very end.Keep a continuous watch at the meter reading and at the fueling person, throughout your turn.
- If you develop doubt over a particular petrol pump, then AVOID that particular petrol pump in the future like the plague. I have also seen that there are petrol pumps which do not indulge in such activities.
- Identify such pumps and try to fill from these pumps only In any case, don’t believe the attendants and NEVER EVER TAKE YOUR EYES FROM THE METER. Get it set to zero and do not take your eyes off till the last drop comes out of the nozzle.
- Ask the attendant firmly to keep his hands off the nozzle and wait for the auto cut-off to kick-in.Park the car a bit away from the machine and let the attendant stretch the pipe to your fuel lid.
- Ask him to hold the nozzle at certain height post he is done fueling up the tank in order to allow the residual to flow in.Always check for zero before they start filling, even if the petrol pump is overcrowded.Reduce conversations with the fuel attendant, and if you must talk to him/her, please do it without taking your eyes off the meter for one second.
- Also make sure the meter is set at ₦0.00 before the attendants starts to fill up your tank/keg.Do not take your eyes off the meter till the last drop, don’t get distracted by counting the money you want to give him/her, wait till he/she is done dispensing the fuel. End the transaction right there, in case the meter is stopped for any reason. Do not hurry and always pay at the end of the transaction.
- Ask for a printed receipt every time, as far as possible.Always keep a watch on the attendant and on the meter.
- If you are suspicious about a certain fuel station, step out of your car and ask the attendant to move away from the dispenser while filling. If you still feel that he is cheating stop him from filling your tank and call the manager and lodge your complain. If nobody at the station admits their fraud or deny any assistance, reach out to DPR.
- As we visit the filling station today, always remember The Golden Rule: Never take your eyes off the meter.
By Daramola Babalola
As we visit the filling station today, always remember The Golden Rule: Never take your eyes off the meter
Have you must also have experienced similar attempts to cheat. Do you have any special experience to share?
Daramola Babalola is a political analyst and News Editor, He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org