Sunday, March 8, 2009

How not to get duped at the petrol pump

It’s that time of the month again when Vinnie needs her food. I usually get the tank full at the petrol pumps for three reasons. This avoids extra trips to the pump and it is good for the engine since it results in reduction of the amount of time the level of petrol remains low in the tank. The third reason is to avoid the prospect of a confrontational situation which is explained below.

During initial days in Bangalore, I noticed that my spending on petrol has gone up quite a bit even though the distances covered daily were less than those in Gurgaon. I attributed that to nearly 15% difference in petrol prices and slow moving traffic here. However, with time, it came to notice that there were fluctuations in mileage in Bangalore itself; thousand rupees petrol sometimes lasted 15 days while other times it got over within 10 days.

It must be mentioned here that I am not someone who keeps a notebook on expenses per month and then sits and analyzes them. It’s just that I have a fondness for numbers. I remember quite a few of them and catch any inconsistencies easily. That had led to the blasphemous allegation that I am an extremely caring person just because I never forgot anyone’s B’day. Now I deliberately don’t wish people even if I remember their all sorts of anniversaries. Enough of me, let’s move to the point now.

Since petrol-pumps were the only variables in this situation, it was natural to suspect them. However, even for the same petrol pump, there were considerable variations sometimes. It was turning out to be an intriguing problem. So this one particular time, I decided to be more observant and asked the guy to fill petrol worth Rs.500 instead of the usual Rs.1000. Here is what happened:

I parked my car and got out of it in order to observe the meter closely.

“500”, I said. It’s fun to communicate with as few words as possible.

“Zero Sir”, he pointed to the meter.

“Sir, Cardaa or cashaa?”, another guy approached me. Happens always; get your payment done while the tank is getting filled. Parallel processing; no rocket science here.

I gave him the credit card without uttering a word, which, later I realized, also meant that my attention was diverted.

“Sir! Over. 200.” the first guy pointed to the meter.

“But I asked for 500; you never listen properly. Last time too you did the same thing”, I replied irritatingly.

“Sorry Sir, see zero again”. He went on to fill 300.

Satisfied, I signed the credit card receipt and started the car. Surprisingly enough, the petrol indicator hadn’t moved to half of what it used to move for 1000. “Must be a calibration error”, the forgotten and ignored Instrumentation Engineer in me tried to soothe the rest of me and succeeded for a while.

However, as soon as the car moved, I had the Eureka moment. In the first half of the filling, the full 200 never goes in; there is a button or a trick which when used, directly jumps to that mark. Asking for a credit card, or car wash/paint are tactics to divert the attention. The lost 200 was a smaller part of 1000, but this time when asked for 500, the difference was clearly noticeable.

I got down the car and confronted that guy. Initially he insisted that he heard 200 first. My line was "how come you always hear 200 instead of 500"; not a very persuasive one; all rhetoric and no evidence. There was a deadlock in arguments and it seemed useless to fight with the group. Threats of never visiting their pump didn’t earn any respect either.

Logic came to rescue once again. The car was definitely having some petrol (though not much) before they poured any into the tank. The tank, when empty, used to get filled in around 1700 when you convert currency to liters. The capacity of the petrol tank cannot be disputed. So, if he had already filled in 500 worth of petrol, then he must not be able to fill in worth 1200 more. I asked those guys to go for a full tank and if the amount crosses 1200, then I wouldn’t be paying a single penny. Of course, they didn’t have any comeback for this; that’s the best thing about maths, number of people on the wrong side don’t count.

I had been tricked in such manner more than once at other locations too. When checked with friends, nearly all of them recalled getting duped similarly quite often. Easy money.

So now I always say “full tank”; it cannot be mistaken for 200 or 100. Coming back from Goa I had a thousand rupee note, which I had to dispense off. On my next visit to the pump, I raised 10 fingers and said “Thousand, and don’t play that 200-waala trick with me”. A few extra words, but they were necessary.

23 comments:

Arnab Majumdar said...

Very interesting post that one, and I for one should really heed by this one... I'm not really that observant when the tank's being filled and all, just observant to the extent of seeing the zero at the beginning of the transaction... I gotta be more careful in future, thanks :D

Kanchan said...

Nice one "detective Brown".I ll take care next time ..is this one linked to your dilli ka thug kind of series ?

Fangs said...

ive been stiffed a couplov times in the past..
now i get out of the car, ensure that the counter is at zero, then say full tank and hand over my card only once the tank is topped!

AJ said...

hey nice one.. very true!! happens wid me most of the time...

get down first/ say "Full tank" or "500/-" later... Never answer "cash or card" thing.. handover the card after they fill fuel... :-D

However I have NOT understood one trick of theirs "cash or card"... do they make any setting, if we say "card"..?? I think they manage to switch up dat "surcharge" thingy from us... just my obeservation..throw some light there? :D

Kunjal said...

good post!!I never pay attention but surely will be using your trick now onwards:)

sammythewizzy said...

Excellent Observation... I will definitely fill full tank from now, if and when I buy my first car :)

BrownPhantom said...

@Arnab,Kunjal & Sammy : Good to know that you'll be more careful :). Importantly, if anything strikes u as fishy, then it most probabaly is.

BrownPhantom said...

@Aj,
About the surcharge: it's a government rule to pay 2.5% fuel surcharge if paying through the credit card. Petrol pump guys don't earn any thing rom it. You save money though if u pay through cash.
However many of the credit cards offer cashback on fuel; you must use one of them at the petrol pumps .

Scattered Thoughts... said...

uhhhhhh.. interesting!! thanks heaven the guys here are quite honest then.. this is open loot man!!

but one thing.. economist in you helped :))

Not you said...

Hi Dhanno,
I have seen this happen more often than not in Bangalore. And more so at HP or IBP or BP.

But let me also highlight, distracting you with "cashaa cardaa" is not the only way to fleece money from you.

Adulterating petrol is also one of the ways that Petrol pumps increase their profit margins. You may check the density indicated in the petrol pump. But do we really care to know the density of petrol.

BrownPhantom said...

@Not you,
Yes, this has happened to me in Bangalore only.
Not many check the density; one reason being that many choose to be free riders here.
Thing is that if a pump has adulterated petrol, then it is same forl all and no individual is specifically getting looted. It's just like the way one is careful while getting married but doesn't care to vote in elections.

@Scattered Thoughts,
Yes, economist did help . Kuch to fayda hua :).

Bubbles said...

Hi Brown Phantom! Hmmm...interesting observation. Guess would keep this in mind when I buy my first car :)

Piggy Little said...

i like it, i like the way u write. esp the way u end it..and the fact that such debauched embezzlement makes ur blood boil too:-) thanks for linking me on indi..... liked ur abt me too..esp. abt it being a ridiculous idea.

neha

Anup said...

I've had a similar experience and its pissed me to no end! http://www.anup.org/?p=91
Thats where I wrote about it. Awesome write ups.

BrownPhantom said...

@Anup,
I read your post. It's a widely used trick in Bangalore:).

masood said...

Awesome trick btw :).

Archana said...

ooops.. which is that petrol tank in blore?? ve to be careful there i guess

BrownPhantom said...

@Masood, Yes it is .

@Archana,
There are many, you got to be careful.

Anonymous said...

one more trick to divert attention is, at the time of filling the petrol one person would clean the windshield and would ask you to co-operate by moving the wipers, i was duped more than once and lost thousands of Rs through this trck so beware!!!!

VijayKumar said...

This trick can still be recoginsed, the worry I have is when the meter shows Rs 200 but tank is filled lesser then 200. The Best way to avoid this 200 Rs fraud is to ask him to stop and 200 and collect back the remaining money. And never go to that pump again. Seems to work with me.

VijayKumar said...

.. and when I take a can, they send me to a different pump then , where they are filling the bikes and cars. And they are also mixing other things into petrol..not sure what they mix.

Arvind said...

I had many similar experiences and I thought the experience has made me smart but never the less they (petrol operators) out smart me.

The current trend to cheat is dispensing the fuel so slow that u get irritated and some body approaches you for the free service (cleaning ur wind shield, knocks on ur door for addon credit card etc) split second the fuel is filled.

The trick is third person switches off the motor and switches on to zero. The best is too avoid some of the petrol pump units.

In bangalore south careful about the petrol pump near Seetha Circle (100% cheating assured - Category A)
Near BMS Engineering College (Category A)
Mysore Road Nyandahalli stretch (Category A all the 3 petrol pumps)
Devegowda Petrol Pump ( Some of the dispensing team - Category B)
Uttarahalli Circle (Category B)

Wait for few more updates in next week.

The best way to avoid getting duped is fill the tank.

Droopy Rose said...
This comment has been removed by the author.