Let’s even up this petrol pump pickle

IT’S time to grab one of the big issues facing society by the horns and grapple it into submission. It’s been nagging away at me for some little time and, in the memorable words of Peter Finch in Network, I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more.

Tuesday, 13th March 2012, 6:09 am

So what has poked my particular goat with a sharp stick and enraged it so?

It’s an everyday chore, heaven knows, and I should have been able to come to terms with it by now – but pumping fuel into the car is guaranteed to pump up my blood pressure.

Not just because of the price of the stuff, although that’s steep enough these days to make anyone shudder.

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No, it’s just the act of fuelling – although the soaring price is a factor in my frustration.

Why? Well, back in the days when I started driving there were still what were known as ‘attended service’ stations where pump jockeys would make with the nozzle and take your cash without you even having to leave the car.

I was always impressed by their ability to squeeze out just the amount required – most of us fill up in monetary amounts, after all, rather than go for a certain number of litres or an overdraft-inducing full fill-up – without apparent effort.

That’s a skill that has always eluded me. As the counter clicks up to the amount I want, I slow down. 80p, 90p, squeeze, dribble, trickle, 98p, 99p...and then straight past the round pound and on to 1p over what I wanted.

What to do? Queue up at the counter to admit that I’m not up to such a simple task, and then have to grapple with an awkward amount when balancing the bank book later?

Or carry on to the next fiver, hoping to get it right at the second attempt and be able to hold my head up?

In recent months it’s become almost impossible to stop fuelling dead on the nose because the counter goes round so quickly.

And I’m beginning to think that it’s a cunning conspiracy by the fuel firms to get another fiver, or on days when I am being particularly ham-fisted, a tenner, off me.

The mind games may go every further – perhaps they make it tricky so that when you go in to pay you grab a coffee, a pack of mints or a bargain offer travel rug in a vain attempt to disguise the evidence of your incompetence on the final receipt.

But it could all be so much easier. Most pumps have some sort of keypad attached these days, to allow out of hours use and the like.

So why can’t they be set up like a cashpoint machine, and allow you to determine at the start of the process how much fuel you want, and let the machine meter it out for you?

You don’t get cashpoints pumping out tenners until you’ve got enough, for obvious reasons, and I can’t see why fuel is not dispensed in the same way.

The first filling station that introduces such a simple step to improve all our lives can count on my custom,

Well, as long as it’s not charging a premium for the privilege, of course,

Shame at my lack of manly prowess on the forecourt is one thing, but at the end of the day 50p is 50p,