“The beast for me is greed. Whether you read Dante, Swift, or any of these guys, it always boils down to the same thing: the corruption of the soul.”-Ben Nicholson.
Sometimes when people search for the root of corruption in the country, they look at the wrong places and while critics harangue the greedy attitudes of those in authority, they forget Joseph de Maistre saying that “Every country has the government it deserves.” The looters in government obviously started from somewhere.
For a long time, petrol attendants have swindled unsuspecting motorists making a kill after each day’s job. While some have used this reward of iniquity to start other businesses, some of them who waste it on pleasures and who obviously are enjoying the show have graduated it from one level to the other. While some of them do it with the connivance of the station managers, others do it among themselves ready to face the music when the manager discovers.
Recent discovery through discussions with dealers, petrol attendants and even close observers shows that petrol attendants have perfected ways they use to cheat their customers. Because motorists or other customers do not take adequate notice, the attendants use all kinds of approach to deceive and defraud people.
SHIPS & PORTS DAILY discovered that the attendants adopt some of these strategies to cheat those buying fuel from them. The tactics mentioned are not exhaustive though.
The first of those schemes is the attendant trying to chat up the customer immediately he drives in. If he is not discussing football, it is politics. The idea is to make you get relaxed with him, even argue and take your eyes off the fuel meter.
To perfect this plan sometimes the attendant will get his colleague to distract you, so he can focus on fuel pump to defraud the buyer.
Another method of cheating by fuel attendants is that when the customer requests to fill up his car or jerry-can for a particular amount, say like ₦6000, the attendant will sell only ₦1000 worth of fuel and when you ask him why he didn’t fill up for ₦6000, he will apologize, telling the customer he thought he heard ₦1000 worth of fuel. He pretends and continues to sell the remaining ₦5000, by pretending to reset the meter to fill up the ₦6000 worth. The customer pays ₦6000 at the end but in reality the attendant has just swindled him.
He did not reset the meter to ₦0.00; he just continued from the ₦1000 point till he got to ₦5000, so in reality you only get the petrol worth ₦5000, but paid ₦6000.
One of the old tricks they have used even with the consent of some rogue dealers is the faulty meter. Some petrol pumps have tampered with meters that start ticking even before petrol starts to flow from the hose. If you have ever gone to a filling station to buy fuel and it takes less time to fill your tank, compared to other places that’s one of the tricks? This is because the meters have been tweaked, the attendant will make you believe the particular fuel dispenser is faster or slower than normal, depending on how the meters were manipulated.
Another smart trick by attendants is what some people have dubbed the okada trick. The commercial motorcycle popularly called Okada and Keke Napep usually buy petrol in small quantities, say like 2 or 3 litres of fuel at a go.
From investigations, after dispensing fuel for the Okada or the tricycle, if the next buyer wants to buy fuel in his car or a big jerry-can, the fuel attendant will use the trick because of the small quantity sold previously and continue to dispense fuel into your car tank without clearing the previous sale.
For instance if the previous sale to the tricycle or the motorbike or even a commercial bus is about ₦450, the fuel attendant will gently place the nozzle, and naturally, when the next customer who is a 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 and the car owner is automatically fleeced by ₦450. It could be more.
One other not very popular one is that almost every petrol consumer is erroneously aware that when the nozzle is hanged on the pump, the readings revert to zero. Fraudulent fuel attendants have also found a way to manipulate it to cheat motorists.
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 hanged nozzle, while the dispenser is still running, and if a new customer comes, they simply continue from where they stopped from the previous customer.
The trick is used a lot during fuel scarcity period, or when customers are in a hurry to buy fuel.
Among the strategies employed by petrol attendants, some of them fetch more money than the other. This particular one is money spinning. A petrol dealer said that 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 he wants to see the last ten sales, he just presses Recall, then the number he wants to see shows the amount. Beyond seeing past sales, petrol attendants use it to cheat and make money from customers.
An analyst who is aware of this trick gave the breakdown to expose this antic. If a petrol attendant sold ₦3,000 worth of fuel to Customer Bola, and the next customer, Bayo also wants to buy ₦3,000; the attendant will clear the screen to ₦00.0 and tell Customer Bola to look at it (A way of gaining your trust and making you relax); then when he observes that Customer Bayo is not looking, he sells N1,500 for example and then presses Stop or Cancel, depending on the machine, then presses Recall 1, and Ok;with that, the ₦3,000 which he sold to Customer Bola who had paid and driven off will appear on the screen and that is what the Customer Bayo will see on the meter, believing the sale is complete, meanwhile the attendant recalled the previous sale without Bayo’s knowledge. He said that this can be done in less than one second.
The list continues. A property agent, John Ogbebor who says he knew most of these tricks long ago, told SHIPS & PORTS DAILY that most of these attendants are greedy and corrupt and the new employees learn from the old ones on the job. He said the best way stop them in their tracks is to focus on the metre before they start selling. “Some of them will just discharge air inside your vehicle while you think the metre is reading. It is a strategy they know well. When they start being very friendly to you, be careful, they are fraudulent,” he declared.
A woman, Chigozie Ibe, who lives in Ogba, Lagos, gave an account of how she was cheated by a petrol attendant recently. She was rushing to the school to pick her children after their closing time. When she saw the low level of fuel in her car, she decided to enter the nearest petrol station to buy so she could go to pick her children.
As she got to the filling station, she didn’t bother to look at the pump while the sale was on because her children’s teacher was calling her to know whether she was on her way. She just told the attendant to sell N6,000 while picking her calls. Before she left, though, she sighted N6,000 on the pump when the attendant told her to see the sale. She paid and left.
She was however surprised that after about five minutes’ drive, the fuel gauge only went up a little as if he just bought N2,000 fuel. She couldn’t believe it and initially thought that her fuel gauge was faulty but was later convinced otherwise.
“I was confused and very angry; so I turned back, while praying that the car wouldn’t run out of fuel. By the time I got to the petrol station, I was furious.”
She said she had almost pounced on the attendant when she saw him after the man felt unrepentant and refused to confess. “When there was a shouting match, the manager came out to resolve the matter.
“I didn’t know that the man had had similar encounter earlier. The manager just said you again? You can’t spoil our reputation; I will sack you. For me I was not interested in all that drama, all I wanted was for the fuel I bought to be given to me which they eventually did,” Chigozie said.
Report said that Chigozie’s experience is common among vehicle owners, who had at one time or the other thought they had bought fuel but later found out they either bought nothing or were short-changed in terms of the quantity.
Some vehicle owners who spoke to SHIPS & PORTS DAILY said they had such funny experience at one time or the other but could not really do anything about it because they thought nobody would believe them.
This goes to show that once you buy fuel from a filling station and it seemed like nothing was added to your fuel tank after you have left, or you felt what was sold to you wasn’t appropriate with what you paid for or expected, you may have been cheated with your eyes wide open.
A repentant ex-petrol attendant was open on how he and his colleagues used to fleece customers when they come to buy fuel.
“Ideally, when we resume, we take the reading on the meter on the fuel dispenser, which we call the opening meter, and when we close, we take the reading, which we also call the closing meter. Then, we multiply the difference in the readings by the cost per litre, which is the amount we deliver to the manager. If there is any surplus, it belongs to the attendant, and if there is loss, the attendant will look for money to make it up. If the shortage is a lot of money, the manager may allow that the money be deducted from the person’s salary if the person is not sacked,” he explained.
He said that out of every five attendants, four know all the tricks and use them on daily basis.