Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Top up 'n bail

In some ways I don’t think we always realize how much we have to be grateful for in South Africa - third world country or not, we have someone pouring our petrol for us at the pump.

During my recent visit to the US I was very intrigued with the concept of self service at the gas station. There each person pumps his own gas and then goes to pay inside the shop. I asked the lady once what stops people from filling up and simply driving off; do you merely trust in their good nature – that they will be honest? She smiled and said, “How far can you go? And I know where you live.” It was a very small town, you see.

My next question was ‘What about larger cities?’ Then someone explained that they first have to swipe their card and then pour. The pump cuts off at the swiped value. Hmm... makes sense.

Today I stopped to put in some petrol and saw a sign on the pump saying that, due to fuel theft, the petrol attendant is now obligated to take your car keys while pouring petrol for you. The lady explained that they’ve had several occasions where people fill up and then speed off. How sad is that? I wouldn’t recommend the self help service in South Africa. Yes, some people call it cheap labor, but for some people it is a job; an income.

I kept thinking about being dressed corporately in suit and high heels and reeking of petrol when you’re done filling up your car. Ever noticed how difficult it is to get that smell off your hands?

The second perk I think we are very spoiled with in South Africa is the car wash – another self service in the part of the US where I was. Personally I prefer my car hand washed – and I don’t mean my hands ;) You have less risk of scratches (I think). Drip dry never used to work for me – I like white cars and it stains the paint. Polishing it has not been my favorite past time, but every now and again is fine. Also, having it vacuumed on the inside and polishing the dash and trimmings, leaving you with that clean, perfumed smell when you drive off really works for me. Any car is more beautiful if only for being cleaned inside and out! If you take good care of it, it will take good care of you!

Then again, isn’t that true for all things – well, mostly anyway... :)

These are some of the older pumps in the small town of Marquette, Kansas. If nothing else, it's pretty and colorful.


  1. I do miss that!! It used to be "full service" here everywhere. They would check your oil and clean all your windows while they fuel your veh. There are still some here and there ..... but it became a method of cost savings. Wish we can get more cost savings now at $4.00 + a gallon now. If not ... then for that amount somebody should be cleaning the windows, checking oil and topping for you....... again.

  2. You must have been in a small town because almost every self-serve station in the US requires payment first, before the gas is pumped. In the past year, we've gotten self-service check out stands in the grocery store, where you have to be your own checker, swiping the USB codes with the scanning machine yourself. I think it's terrible - jobs are being taken away and removal of the human interaction is worse.

    After reading your post, it got me thinking that people can assume that things work the same in different parts of the world. After all, a gas station is a gas station, right? Not so. I never even would have guessed that self-service isn't common everywhere, for the simple reason that I live in the US and that's the way it's done here. Enjoyed your thoughts on this. I've never been to Kansas, so you're one up on me there.

  3. They take your keys? So glad I live in Parkview, village atmosphere and everyone knows everyone.

  4. Garett, are you saying that you pay less for gas because of the self service? I try to always remember to say thank you. Doing it yourself is not so great in my mind. Maybe a little spoilt ;) Have to add though that one has to keep an eye on them - especially if you're pedantic (like me). But it still beats doing it yourself :)

  5. Yes, Tracy. It was a small town. They did have the self service at the Walmart cashiers. Maybe I'm used to living in a country with higher crime, but how do you know you are not being robbed blind for every item that is not swiped? I simply don't trust people that much. Good or bad? Maybe everyone should judge for themselves :) Plus, like you say, the loss of job opportunities and the personal touch. Don't business realize that the fewer people are employed, the fewer people have money to spend... Doesn't that work negative back on the businesses in an economy?

    I have to say, Tracy, I did a lot of comparison over there. I found it immensely interesting, however, some people perceived that as criticism rather than good, healthy debate. I think that everyone can learn from each other; no one knows everything - if there's a better way, why not, right? That's me, anyway. Noticing the differences was part of the adventure for me, even if not all of them were easy to deal with... especially initially. One can miss what you're used to. Familiar is familiar, even if it is not the best 'in the world' haha ;)

  6. Yes, Cindy. However, she didn't have to take mine - the control freak that I am - I'm bad enough to give everyone enough peace of mind! lol ;)

  7. With all the dog hair and seasand in my car...thank God for car washes!!!

  8. For sure, Granny! Won't be surprised if Jasmine shares your sentiment ;)