18 September 2012


The hardest £10  I ever earned
I passed my driving test in 1972 and since then I have put enough petroleum in various cars to fill several Olympic-sized swimming pools. In all this time, I never once suspected that I'd been cheated by a malfunctioning petrol pump - until this April...

I had just picked our Frances up from Sheffield railway station and pulled in to the Waitrose filling station because my low fuel light was on. I put the pump nozzle in my car and pressed the hand lever as usual. It always takes three or four minutes to fill up and even though the price of unleaded was high that day - I confidently expected the charge dial would stop at no more than £58. However, it kept going up - £60, £65 £68! No way! Something was wrong. I didn't even allow the pump to shut off as my Seat Ibiza had never required this amount of fuel before. The pump indicated that I'd added 49.6 litres to my tank.

I complained at the pay desk but the air-headed girl behind the glass had clearly not been trained in how to deal with such complaints and there was a queue of people behind me. So I came home and checked my car manual which said that the tank holds a maximum of forty five litres. I emailed Waitrose immediately outlining the situation, even scanning my receipts for them and the relevant page from the car manual.

There then followed four months of email communication punctuated by large time gaps as I waited for various Waitrose "Customer Services"  responses from a range of people - never the same one. They tried various tactics to put me off but would not waver from their company position that their pumps never make mistakes and because mine was an isolated complaint, I must be either mistaken or out to make money from them.

Finally, I said to them - "Give me money back or I will walk into a Waitrose store and simply take £10 worth of goods from your shelves!" It was at that point they relented and "as a gesture of goodwill" agreed to send me a voucher for £10. 

After the incident in April, I monitored all further visits to filling stations and when filling up found that the most I was putting in was 44 litres and the most I was paying was £57.50. This convinced me that my complaint had been fully justified and I am pleased I managed to wring a victory out of the buggers in the end. Yorkshire Pudding 1 Waitrose United 0 (after extra time and several replays).


  1. I hope you reported this to Trading Standards - just think how many other people they've been ripping off.

  2. We get this a lot here. In Angola we still have pump attendants. What they do is not close off the pump after filling up a container for a friend and then the next guy gets to pay for his tankful plus the 20 litre container the bandit had just filled up for his mate. You see the guys hanging around the pumps with these containers and unless you are quick out of the car, the bastard pump attendants will have the nozzle in your car and be pumping and if it is car that requires a key to open the petrol cap, woe betide the person that doesn't check the pump is zeroed first.

    Not sure how this cam would work in UK, I thought everyone was honest there?

  3. SHOOTING PARROTS I am afraid I never went down that particular road. I just stuck with the dialogue with Waitrose. Perhaps I should have gone to Trading Standards early on.
    HIPPO I didn't think hippos required petrol as fuel. I thought they motored on waterside grasses and other vegetation. In Sheffield, we tend not to see many guys hanging about with plastic containers at the local Texaco. Just about everybody over here IS honest old chum apart from Waitrose Customer Services, most solicitors, all MP's, John Terry, all bankers, insurance companies, Gordon the Gopher and Camilla Parker-Bowles.

  4. Victory! Well done you.

  5. OOoooer.....now you have me wondering why my car fill up has been costing me so much more lately.........very vigilant of you YP.

  6. yp
    you have struck a blow for the little people...(well in your case not SO little )

  7. JENNY My parents had an enemy to fight. I've got Waitrose, Sheffield City Council Street Force and "Blogger" instead.
    LIBBY Some guys I know keep records of all petrol station visits and are able to calculate how many miles they get per gallon but 99.9% of the time I am sure that our closely regulated petrol pumps are reliable.
    EARL GRAY Yes. Not so little. Six feet of bulging Yorkshire muscle. But even so it is very hard to fight Goliath.

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  9. You are, if nothing else*, a tenacious beggar, aren't you?

    * Insert here what else you are**.

    ** "Six feet of bulging Yorkshire muscle" possibly.

  10. KATHERINE As the bishop said to the actress - "Where? Where am I meant to insert?"

  11. I think they finally found they had met their match with you huh YP? :-) - Dave -

  12. HELEN Thank you.
    DAVE Like David (not Dave), I had my catapult and with a bag of words I felled the mighty Waitrose-Goliath. If you fancy your chances I would be happy to wrestle you any time.


Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.

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