India's petrol pump scams (UPDATED!) and how not to get conned: A comprehensive guide!

India’s petrol pump scams (UPDATED!) and how not to get conned: A comprehensive guide!

If you own a car or a two wheeler in India, there’s a good chance that you have been scammed/almost-scammed at least once at a fuel station – commonly known as petrol bunks. Here are the 5 most common petrol bunk scams of India, and what you need to do to avoid getting scammed.

Diversionary tactics

Diversion is the oldest trick that fuel attendants in a petrol bunk use. If you see two fuel attendants, one to collect cash and the other to fill fuel, get on guard immediately. Generally, the guy in-charge of collecting cash will try to distract you while the one filling fuel will try to fill less fuel than what you’ve paid for.

This is how it plays out.

The first attendant will reset the pump to zero and questions you about the required quantity. As he starts to dispense the fuel, another will try to block your view while engaging you in a pointless conversation about mileage, traffic or some fuel additives, during which the first attendant resets the meter and gives you an affirmative nod to pay and move ahead. This way, they’ll ensure that you don’t get to see the total amount of fuel put into your car/bike.

Another common trick is where the fuel attendant acts as though he’s misheard you. Assume that you want to fill up for say Rs. 1,000. The fuel attendant will act as if he heard you say 200. So, he’ll stop at 200, and then set the auto cut-off to 800. In this way, you’ll get only 800 rupees of fuel while you pay for Rs. 1000.

How to get around this?

Always insist for a read-out slip that gives you the amount of fuel that the machine has dispensed. Most new petrol bunks offer this facility. Another way is to get down from the car even before the fuel is getting filled.

Long fuel dispenser

Unusually long fuel dispensers retain a lot of fuel that is counted by the meter but doesn’t reach your fuel tank. A good amount of the fuel dispensed always remains as residual in the longer pipe, and when they roll it in, it is returned back.

How to get around this?

Ideally, avoid such fuel stations. If you have no option but to use such a station, get down from the car and make sure that the fuel attendant empties the last drop of petrol/diesel from the dispenser into your fuel tank before rolling the dispense back.

Adulteration

Adulteration is something that’s rampant in many fuel stations in India. There’s no real way you can figure out adulterated fuel as complex chemicals are often used for adulteration. The best way to get around this is to avoid shady petrol bunks. Try to patronize well-known, and well-regarded petrol bunks. Also, stick to company-owned, company-operated (COCO) outlets wherever possible.

Tampered fuel pumps

Image courtesy IndiaToday

This is a scam that was recently detected in multiple petrol bunks at Uttar Pradesh. In this scam, an electronic chip reduced the output of the petrol dispensing machines by nearly six per cent. The chip was controlled remotely by a fuel pump attendant. So, for every liter of fuel the customer paid for, he got only 940 ml. The man who sold this chip to petrol bunk owners is said to have sold about 1,000 units of the chip. The only way to avoid getting scammed by such chips is to patronize reputed petrol bunks.

Start-Stop trick

In this trick, the fuel attendant doesn’t lock the nozzle into your car’s fuel filler neck. Instead, he keeps starting and stopping the fuel flow by repeatedly pressing on the dispenser while filling fuel. While he does this, some quantity of fuel gets held back into the dispensing machine due to air locks. You can lose up to 200 ml of petrol for every 10 liters dispensed. One way to get around this is to make sure that the fuel attendant locks the nozzle into the fuel filler neck of the car and doesn’t manually intervene until the auto cut-off point is reached.

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