No service from the service station

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admin

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Sir,

In your last issue R. Pickering puzzles over why London cars have greasy streaks running from their filler caps. I would have thought that if he was observant enough to notice this then he would also have noticed just how this typical tell-tale of forecourt service occurs.

Hasn’t he ever noticed the benign attendant leap to his feet to welcome another customer? Hasn’t he observed his deft magic circle fingers as he drops the filler cap to the ground and his contortionist abilities as he tries to retrieve it from under the car whilst carrying on filling? Hasn’t he ever admired the accuracy with which he overfills the radiator and puts the remainder into the battery? Hasn’t he ever noted the skill with which he spits (and misses) at the leaking tyre valve or that the rag to clean the windscreen and wipe the dipstick are the same? Hasn’t he ever had to compensate for the lack of sanitary amenities with his quinto trading stamps? No? Well, he must just be lucky.

I am not surprised at the number of stations that are changing over to self-service. If they convert at the rate that they have around NW London then I expect that “ye quaint olde service with a smile” ones will be in a minority in ten years or so. It’s a pity that more of them can’t pass on the reduced labour cost in the form of reduced prices and not trading stamps. If they are all going to issue stamps then I would have thought that competition was neutralised.

Having spent six months of last year driving around Northern Italy I am quite aware of the efficiency of Continental filling stations. One man for the fuel and one for the rest. How many readers have had their screen cleaned by a chap using three grades of dusters who then goes over the surface looking for the odd fly he might have missed? That was the sort of service I came to regard as normal and dear, oh dear, did it spoil me. On several occasions I was given free maps which are a damn sight more useful than reject tea-spoons, plastic flowers or nylon !

There are probably many garage accountants who will immediately say that the profit margin on petrol is insufficient to maintain adequate standards of service, but on so many occasions I have had to wait about wondering if they really want to sell the stuff at all. Only the other Saturday at the National garage just before joining the M1 at Mill Hill no less, I hung about for what seemed ages (probable about four minutes), nobody appeared so I got out and nosed around the kiosk. The whole joint seemed to be run by a couple of not-overenthusiastic 16-year-olds. I hung about for a bit longer whilst others were giving up and taking their custom elsewhere.

I am not sure quite what a “get-up-and-go” person is, less so whether I am one, but that is what I did.

TONY SINGER – Ruislip, Middlesex

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