Common petrol pump scams in India

Picture this – You drive your lovely car to the trusted petrol station and tank it up for the weekend trip. As you start your journey, you involuntarily reset your trip meter. On your way back from the lovely trip, you decide to tank it up again. As a smart and dutiful Indian, you turn your cell-phone calculator on to check ‘kitna deti hai’, and to your utter surprise, the fuel mileage has dropped drastically – almost by 20%! What might you have done wrong? Bad driving? Irregular maintenance? Bad roads? Or, maybe – It was your trusted petrol station that ripped you! Also read: Seven lies car dealers tell you

Fuel attendant tricks

As if the skyrocketing price of petrol, diesel and CNG isn’t enough, the ‘friendly’ fuel station attendants have found numerous tricks up their sleeves to add to their regular income, and undercut the consumers who at the first place are paying through their nose! Even with many advancements in these stations like digital meters, auto cut-off mechanism, credit-card payment acceptance and ‘company-owned company-operated’ business model, the staff at these fuel pumps function hand-in-glove with each other to rip the unsuspecting citizen. Here is how:

The fuel attendants, as a common practice, always keep their fingers firmly stuck to the nozzle, even when they have pre-fed a fixed amount of fuel to be filled. They tend to manually intervene the flow of fuel, and deliver the required amount in short bursts and multiple installments. It is largely believed that such antics lead to short filling by over a liter, every time.

Long fuel dispense pipes

Another difficult-to-detect trick is to use a fuel dispenser pipe that is longer than actually required. It leads to huge savings on the dealer’s part. A decent portion of the fuel dispensed always remains as residual in the longer pipe, and when they roll it in, it is returned back. But guess what, you actually end up paying for that as well!

Diversionary tactics

The oldest trick known to this trade is ‘distraction’. This involves ganging up of one or more attendants and the cashier. The attendant duly resets the pump to zero and questions you about the required quantity. As they start to dispense the fuel, others try to block your view while engaging you in a pointless conversation about mileage, traffic or some fuel additives, during which the attendant cunningly resets the meter and gives you a affirmative nod to pay and move ahead. A modern-day addition to this trick is to quiz you about your mode of payment, and if it is by a credit or debit card, they distract you with more ‘relevant’ queries.

In an extension to previous trick, the attendant might stop before the pre-decided amount and try to resume from there after re-enquiring with you about the required quantity. You would be unassuming of the fact that the witty fellow has not reset the meter while pretending to do so. For example, if you intend him to fill up for Rs.1000, he stops at Rs.200 and reconfirms. He then sets the auto cut-off at Rs.800 without resetting, and fills up. You, hence, lose Rs.200 worth of fuel.


The simplest way of chemical adulteration of fuel is by adding Naphtha to petrol.  It has the same density as petrol, and does not leave residue either, while costing far cheaper than its counterpart. Interestingly, it is a by-product of petroleum distillation process!