Very nearly twelve years ago I cleared my desk and left my employment with Texaco for the third and final time. In my decade of service with them, I managed to leave three times. I was a serial quitter at. The first occasion was to try my hand at a different kind of service altogether, as an air traffic controller with the RAF. The second time was to tour Mexico for a few months. The third time was because a few months in Mexico just wasn’t enough. I needed a few years. Or more precisely, as it turned out, six years.
My time with Texaco saw a few things change as far as forecourt retailing goes. Customers used to take out their fury at increasing fuel prices on the station staff. They’d often level their complaints in a most ludicrous fashion, as if the guy behind the till was personally responsible. That all changed during the fuel blockades of late summer 2000. The government had a dirty little secret. That being that 80% of the price paid for a litre of fuel went into the their coffers and not, as Joe Public had assumed, the pockets of the oil companies. This became public knowledge. And the public were not happy. Fortunately with someone else now, and not us.
My time in office also saw the demise of 4* petrol. That nasty leaded stuff that caused the deaths of countless people worldwide. There were very few cars, all of them very old by then, which actually needed the stuff anyway. It was replaced by Lead Replacement Petrol, or LRP for short. I’m not sure many places sell even that stuff anymore. But anyway, no sooner had the complaints about the price of petrol died down, than complaints about LRP wrecking cars started up.
The claims made on the basis that this new fuel hadn’t been tested properly and wasn’t fit for purpose. It had, of course, been thoroughly tested and had been sold on the continent for more than a decade. But just try explaining to an angry gent that his 20 year old MG Midget had broken down not because of the fuel, but because his car was 20 years old. And an MG Midget…
Other changes between 1995 and 2005 including a National Minimum Wage being introduced alongside the Working Time Directive, which improved and enriched our poor little lives considerably. Free air for tyres was phased out with new machines needing tokens or coins being introduced. And petrol stations began selling alcohol. That was a pretty controversial idea at the time for some reason. Apparently, it’d just encourage drink driving.
There’s been a change since I left though, and one that I dislike very much. When I opened up a service station in the morning, one of my first jobs, after the newspapers were in the rack, would be to make sure every pump had a bucket of fresh soapy water with a sponge. So customers could could give their windscreens and headlights a quick clean. It was a popular feature that customers liked. And it’s a feature I don’t see anymore.
Companies, including fuel retailers, harp on and on and on about ‘excellent customer service’, ‘going the extra mile’, ‘making the difference’ and all the other catchy but ultimately meangingless slogans they use in order to pretend that they are doing their best to make the customer happy. When in fact they’re doing the least possible in order to maximise the bottom line.
If Brexit means we must step back in time, can we bring back buckets of soapy water at the pumps please? Here’s the Brexit ‘opportunity’ that we’ve been waiting for. A return to the good old days when customer service wasn’t (always) lip service. Perhaps I should start up a campaign. Kickstarter to raise money for the buckets? Or a petition to the fuel retailers to encourage them to fork out? Meh.
The photo above has nothing to do with any of this, as you’ve probably gathered. It’s a shot I took a couple of weeks back out the window of a train heading out from Inverness. But it’s a nice picture to look at while I kill a slow day with a little reminiscing of those good ole days…