Petrol stations losing thousands in ‘drive-offs’

SO-CALLED ‘drive-offs’ are costing petrol stations thousands of pounds each year.

That’s according to a member of staff at one local station who said that while most people who left without paying were making genuine mistakes there was a growing number of thefts being reported to the police.

It comes after the PSNI issued a reminder to the public motorists who fail to pay for fuel at forecourts could be liable for prosecution.

“Sometimes you could see £200-worth of petrol going missing in a month, and at times it can be more than that,” said the employee, who did not wish to be named.

“That’s a lot of money for a small business to be losing, particularly when you add that up over the course of a year. It’s a problem which has been occuring here for several years but it’s certainly been on the increase recently.

“Most of the ‘drive-offs’ are a mistake by genuine regular customers who will come back either later that day or the next morning and will pay for their petrol. But over the last while there has been an increased number of people stealing petrol who we have never seen before and aren’t likely to see again.

“They wait until the peak times when the store is busy, fill up their cars, and then come into the shop to buy a few items. Because it’s so busy staff sometimes forget to ask if they have paid for fuel - and sometimes they lie when they are asked - before driving off.”

The station supervisor said that all staff were trained to ask customers if they had paid for fuel.

“We also have CCTV monitoring the petrol pumps and should anyone drive off without paying that we don’t recognise then we will report their number plate to the PSNI,” he added.

The Police issued the following advice: “The vast majority of drive-offs are often due to human error and people do later pay when their error has been pointed out to them. There have been many instances where customers fill up at the pumps and then purchase other items inside.

“By the time they reach the checkout they may have forgotten about their fuel purchase. Managers should encourage staff to ask everyone who approaches the counter if they have purchased fuel thereby saving any hassle or embarrassment.

However there are still some motorists who will deliberately try to evade paying for fuel and Police encourage forecourt owners to take measures to help prevent the number of drive-offs occurring. This can include displaying clear signs around the pumps asking motorists to ensure they have the necessary funds to pay for their fuel and installing CCTV.

“Staff should also be vigilant to activity on the forecourt and report anything suspicious to the police immediately. Don’t forget to note down details such as registration numbers and a description of the driver.”