Most Lagosians believe filling stations – which have become a dominant feature of the state’s landscape – are unscrupulous businesses run by equally unscrupulous people whose only aim is to cheat and extort them. As we found out, this is not so. We spoke with some filling station attendants and they gave us some insider tips into how the business operates.
Here are ten facts about Lagos filling stations and a five-bullet tip on how to avoid getting ripped off.
Filling Stations Don’t Sell Air
The claim that filling stations sell air is baseless as dispensing pumps cannot dispense air. The display boards of pumps only read when fuel passes through the pump’s valves. If the display board does not read – even if the nozzle is inside the car tank – it means no fuel is being dispensed. But if the display board reads, fuel and not air, is being dispensed.
Fuel Cannot Leave Your Car’s Tank And Return Into The Underground Tank
Dispensing pumps can only dispense fuel from the underground tank into the vehicle or container, and never vice versa. There is absolutely no way dispensed fuel can leave your tank and return into the pump or the underground tank.
The Attendant Cannot Manipulate The Pump
Some dispensing pumps are programmed to dispense lesser fuel than is shown on the display board. The attendant always gets the scolding, curses and insults whenever this is observed although he has no power to manipulate the pump.
Only the filling station owner and manager can manipulate the pump. They do this by inserting a special key into a keyhole located on the programming board (where the attendant programs). The programming board then takes them to a special interface where they manipulate the pump to under-dispense fuel to their customers.
Many Attendants Break Even With “Keg Money”
The average monthly salary of a filling station attendant is ten thousand naira. This is too small and many attendants break even by charging customers who buy fuel in jerry cans. In very good locations with poor electricity, attendants can make their monthly pay in a single day.
Filling Stations Are A Cheating And Extortion Galore
Filling stations are a free-for-all cheating galore. The cheating starts from the depot where depot operators force tanker drivers to pay bribes before loading fuel. Outside the depot, the tanker drivers face hordes of security agents that also force them to pay bribes to avoid unnecessary delays.
The tanker driver themselves – along with their motor boys – also try outsmarting filling station managers by under-dispensing the agreed measurement of fuel.
The manager himself also sometimes manipulates the pumps, usually at the behest of his boss. Then, there’re the crooked attendants who cheat their customers and the equally crooked customers who cheat the attendant.
The police also pays weekly visits to the filling stations for “protection fee” and so does the Fire Service and the Department of Petroleum Resources, whose personnel routinely visit on never-ending “inspections” that always end with money switching hands.
Whoever You Send Fuel Might Be Short-changing You
The person you send to get fuel for you might be cheating you. This non-exhaustive list includes your driver, domestic help and children. Some of them do not buy the exact amount they are sent. Instead, they buy a lower amount and pocket the change.
Forget the receipts they bring home, some tell the attendant to write the amount they were sent on the receipt while others collect the blank receipt to fill themselves.
Customers Cheat, A Lot
Attendants are always the villain of any filling station adventure. Yet, customers are more notorious for cheating. They short-change the attendant, buy fuel with fake money and deliberately talk in incoherent voices or use signals to confuse the attendant.
For instance, a driver wanting to buy two hundred naira worth of fuel will raise two fingers at the attendant while pretending to be on a call or talking to the passenger beside him. The attendant – usually a newbie or an overzealous lot – thinks he means two thousand naira and not wanting to disturb his conversation, proceeds to sell. Thereafter, the driver pays two hundred naira and an argument that always ends with the attendant receiving an amount lesser than the fuel dispensed begins.
The worse of customers are those that will stare at the display board or pretend to look away when the attendant sells past the requested amount.
Mixing Kerosene With Diesel Is Normal
Mixing kerosene with diesel is good for improved performance in diesel-engine vehicles and generators, especially in cold weather. It only becomes a problem and can damage your engine when it is over-mixed.
Over-mixed diesel can be identified by the sight and smell test. If the diesel looks too clear or has a heavy smell of kerosene, stay away from it.
No Residue Fuel Is Left In The Hose
Another popular misconception is that dispensing pumps retain some of the customer’s fuel inside the hose. While this is somehow true, the fuel inside is negligible and is not even up to a handful. Besides, the fuel has been there ever since the hose was first used, so there’s nothing peculiar about it.
How The Attendant Cheats You
There are 101 ways the attendant can cheat you and all depends on how attentive you are. One method is to suddenly restart the dispensing pump before the agreed amount is reached. Another is to first sell into a jerry can or motorcycle and without restarting the machine, start selling into a vehicle. But it is very easy to avoid getting ripped-off.
To avoid being cheated, once you get into the filling station;
- Get down from your vehicle and stand close to the pump. Make sure you can clearly see the display board and your car tank from your position.
- Make sure the dispensing pump is off. The dispensing pump makes a humming noise when it is on.
- Tell the attendant to “rub the meter”. “Rubbing the meter” means the “price sold” and “litre sold” on the display board are set at zero. The attendant does this by quickly switching the machine on and off.
- Tell the attendant the amount you want to buy and make sure he programs it. It is more difficult for the attendant to cheat when he programs than when he does not.
- Tell the attendant to “hang” the nozzle in your car. This way, the pump continues to dispense fuel until the programmed amount is reached. Thereafter, the pump’s engine automatically switches off.