When is a petrol station not a petrol station?

Sounds like a joke, doesn’t it? And it very nearly is – except it’s not funny.

A garage is not a garage – when it’s a shop. Of course, I understand that petrol stations have to turn a profit. But, come on. These days the sale of fuel has become secondary, which is a real pain for those who just want to drive in, fill up, pay, then zoom away and get on with their daily business.

Increasingly, you go to pay for your fuel, only to find yourself at the back of a mile-long queue of people clutching shopping baskets overflowing with groceries. There you stand, for what seems like hours, while their baskets are unloaded and scanned: toilet roll, cat food, soft drinks, bread, sweets, milk…

But there’s more. While you stand there waiting to hand over your £20 note for fuel, the clot at the front decides he wants to place his lottery numbers – for the whole street. And pay by debit card. Perhaps even redeem his loyalty card.

It’s a petrol station, for Pete’s sake!

Want to top up your gas credit? No problem. Want to top up your electricity? No problem. Want to top up your tank? Go to the back of the queue, and then wait. And wait.

Here’s a thought. Those old enough to remember will have driven onto petrol garage forecourts and run over a long black cable that rang a bell somewhere. A wee man in overalls would sidle up to your window, and ask how much fuel you wanted. He would then fill your tank, take your cash and come back with the change.

If you’re younger than 50-years of age, you won’t believe it.

So, if garages want to turn a bigger profit, try this: engage the services of several young lads whose job is to offer that wonderful old-fashioned service. Rather than regard the cars on your forecourt as a secondary source of revenue, start seeing them as customers. Customers you can attract to return on a regular basis.

I, for one, would drive miles out of my way for that level of service.

Anything to avoid the snaking queue of people who see the petrol station as a grocery store.

Drew McAdam


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