I steer the bike into the fuel station, one I haven’t used before. I can already feel my hackles rising and teeth gritting involuntarily. Guilty until proven innocent? Sure. But, it's taking a toll on my two-wheeled happiness quotient. I’m trying to see which manoeuvre will they try this time? 1) The friendly tag team or 2) The deaf pump attendant?
Most of us bikers have been fleeced at petrol pumps. And slowly but surely, you learn how to make sure the money spent gets you the right amount of fuel in your tank. The friendly tag team is executed like so – the pump operator has an accomplice. After waiting in queue when you roll up to the pump, the operator will ask you how much fuel you would like to fill. As you answer him, a second attendant will engage you in some pleasant conversation. Which bike is this? How much does it cost? While you are distracted, the operator will start fuelling up, without you having got a chance to check that the meter had been reset.
Yes, at most pumps, attendants are now required to ask you to check that the meter has been reset. But there are loopholes. Some places, there seems to be a half click on the reset lever. And at other places, they play deaf.
Which brings us to the second mode – the deaf attendant. Again, you roll up to the pump and ask for a full tank of fuel. The attendant starts filling but at some X point (Rs100,/Rs200, take your pick) he will stop filling, ask you to move ahead and pay up. Flustered, you will insist that a full tank is what you asked for. The attendant will insist that he heard you say Rs X. And as you argue, he will start fuelling again. Bingo, it's done! Because now when you get the bill, it will be for the initial Rs X + Rs Y for the second round of fuelling. But, trust me, he wouldn’t have reset the meter after filling Rs X worth of fuel. Easy money.
The other day, I learned of another variant of the friendly tag team. Again, the attendant asks you to check that the meter has been reset to zero. And sure enough, it has. So, he starts filling up. However, while one hand is operating the nozzle, the other hand rests on the keypad on the pump. When the nozzle cuts out as the tank fills up, presto. The hand moves away from the keypad and the total changes. If you don’t keep your eyes nailed on the meter, you won't notice it. I was watchful and hence didn’t fall for the friendly tag team act and caught the switch. As soon as the attendant realised that I had noticed his sleight of hand, he reversed it. Don’t ask me how.
So, fuelling up isn’t the most difficult part of riding a KTM 390 Duke. But, thanks to these under-handed schemes and my bike's tiny fuel tank, it is certainly one of the most distasteful parts of hitting the road.
Of course, while bikers are easy prey and available in plenty, they aren't the only victims of these tactics. Whether you're going to the pump for your two-wheeler, hatchback, sedan or SUV, keep a watchful eye out. After all, prices are constantly on the rise, and every penny saved is a penny earned.