(Based on a two thirds majority vote from the commentariat in the previous blog entry)
I filled up at a different petrol station yesterday to my usual one in Bradford. Whilst pumping Gas, I noticed warning signs about a security system called Drivestop. In summary, if you drive off without paying, you may get your tyres spiked. This deterrent sign on the pump below explained it all- you can get a journalist explanation on the BBC (from April 2006) here or read a more technical summary and Police praise at the DriveStop website (or download the .pdf direct here).
The system has various safeguards to prevent accidental triggering and I’m amazed that I’d not heard or seen about it before now.
The first reaction I had was that I hoped they had good insurance as the implied contract is probably rather weak (and non-existent if you happen to be driving in at the time) but the manufacturers claim that there have been no accidental punctures.
I drove in entirely oblivious to the warning lights which are relatively small, although presumably if they are flashing like a North American railroad crossing it would have been much more obvious. By the way, it shows as red rather than green in this photo at the left as this is an entrance onto the forecourt rather than an exit from it.
Peering down into the slots, the short spikes can just about be seen, mounted on a rotating metal shaft. These ones didn’t appear to have the high-visibility yellow plastic tips that appear in the manufacturer blurb.
So why don’t Garages just fit credit card readers to the pumps? Well the margins aren’t that big on fuel so footfall into the shop for sell-through makes the difference between a thriving petrol station and a closed one.
I once accidentally triggered a drive-off panic at my local Sainsburys forecourt. It was a busy one and it was quite common there for motorists to pull forward clear of the pumps after dispensing fuel so that other motorists could start to fill up. Rather than just pull up in front though, I put my car in the queue for the bagwash to the side (it was a fairly long cycle carwash so I knew I had plenty of time). I went and joined the queue, observing that the staff were huddled round screens whilst one kept going out and looking around. Eventually one of them had the gumption to ask the people waiting if anyone was from the pump I had used. (They had asked previously a few seconds before I arrived).
I’ve also left my watch at a garage as collateral when I nipped back to the hotel to rescue my wallet that I’d left in the room. The petrol was worth more than the watch but that was beside the point.