Petrol attendants have resorted to keeping piles of stones at their bowsers due to the increase in incidents of motorists driving off without paying.
“The rock is to throw at their window. It’s the least we can do to make their day as bad as they are making ours,” said one petrol attendant who asked not to be named.
Attendants who spoke to Weekend Witness said the issue of people driving off without paying has always been a problem in their jobs.
However, with petrol prices rising sharply, two things have happened — the incidents are getting more frequent, and it costs more for petrol attendants to reimburse their employer.
“You can imagine someone with a big van filling up for over R2 000 and running away, and then I have to pay back the money,” said a petrol attendant.
Throwing rocks at the cars of perpetrators was inspired by a viral video.
In the video, a car quickly drives off while the attendant is busy filling the petrol tank.
The attendant then reaches for a nearby rock and aims it at the car, breaking the back window.
Petrol stations are franchise-owned, meaning that each store has a different policy regarding people driving off without paying.
Attendants who work for different petrol stations said they are usually held responsible and have to pay the money back incrementally every month, while a few said the station they work for opens a criminal case of theft and claims from insurance.
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Weekend Witness reached out to Engen, Caltex and Shell for comment, but there was no response by the time of publication.
Irfaan Tayoob, a manager at Re-fuel petrol station in North Beach, Durban, said they have implemented strict security measures to prevent people from driving off without paying.
These include collecting the cash before they put the petrol in, putting a large metal sign in front of the car until payment is confirmed, using bowsers closer to the store at night, and hiring more staff for oversight purposes.
“At one point we were getting one runaway every night and this was before the massive petrol increases,” he said.
“Unfortunately, we had to implement these security procedures for the survival of the business …” Tayoob said their policy was that if an employee followed all the security procedures, then the company is liable for the unpaid fee and vice versa.
Tayoob said employees are trained to spot potential runners.
These would be cars with no number plates, blocked number plates or number plates that do not match the licence disc. In most cases when we do open a case with the police we find that the person was using false or stolen plates, so it is hard to track them down