Blog: Simon WarburtonPump up the volume

Simon Warburton | 3 September 2010

News the component and tyre workers' dispute is also involving many of South Africa's forecourts reminds me of a time when I had a student weekend job in a petrol station as we refer to them in the UK.

For the princely sum of £1 per hour - £1 mind - I would trot out from my little hutch and fill punters' cars with petrol, diesel and whatever else they needed doing.

The manager - perhaps realising he wasn't exactly paying me movie star wages - decided to dangle the incentive of selling oil to the same customers - with the result I would use my non-existent sales skills to harangue drivers into buying the product -whether they needed it or not.

Health and safety didn't appear to be quite the priority it is now either - I would periodically clamber up onto the massive lorries delivering 25,000 litres of petrol a time - and 'dip the tanks' - just to make sure the volume was right, while also inspecting the mammoth underground tanks.

Indeed, while wrestling once with the extraordinarily heavy manhole cover over one of those tanks, I dropped it onto my foot resulting in an extremely hasty visit to the local doctor who managed to patch me up.

Still, the work was incredibly varied - living in a small town I knew a fair amount of the patrons - while kindly souls would sometimes give me a tip as I sat freezing on winter mornings in the hutch.

We've pretty much lost that personal touch in the UK now - my local petrol station has an option to pay at the pump rather than the kiosk - but it seems South Africa has resolutely kept to the old ways.

The issue appears not to be one of choice there however, but regulation - forecourts are tightly controlled by the government - but I would wager a bet that South Africans might well miss the pump attendants if they went.

I used to say I worked in the oil business when I was in the petrol station, but here's a chap who's dad had the same job as me, but er, is worth slightly more.



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