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ON THEIR FEET: Petrol pump attendants are the face of the outlets and play a major role in meeting the growing challenges of competition.
ON THEIR FEET: Petrol pump attendants are the face of the outlets and play a major role in meeting the growing challenges of competition.

K. Lakshmi

Petrol pump attendants take bouquets and brickbats with elan as they multitask

CHENNAI: From cheerful drivers who wave hands with a ‘thank you’ to snooty customers who sulk about the rising fuel cost, petrol pumps attendants have seen them all.

Putting in dawn-to-dusk shifts or rotating schedules are an integral part of their job. Though their main work is to fill fuel, they also have come to don different roles. Apart from being the first link in customer service, they manage cash, fill air and, at times, clean the vehicles.

But, they seem to have taken the long hours of work amid fuel vapours in their stride.

L. Mani, an attendant at the IOC outlet in Chromepet for over five years, said: “Initially, I used to find it difficult to stand for several hours without break except for lunch. Inhaling the fumes used to make me dizzy. I am now accustomed to it.” Talking with colleagues during work hours has to be avoided. They manage to catch up during breaks, he said.

Most attendants are taught to operate the pump meter, fill fuel and manage customers.

But, sometimes, mistakes just happen. If it is a major fuel spill, they have to take a pay cut. They are pulled up right in front of the customers.

V. Vinoda, who has been with the HPCL outlet on Rajaji Salai for seven years, said: “Many customers get irritated even if there is a slight delay in dispensing the fuel. Any careless act would mean a rebuke from both owner and customers. I sometimes have a tough time dealing with inebriated customers, who pick up a quarrel unnecessarily during night hours.”

A majority of the petrol bunk attendants shift jobs for either salary hike or better positions. Though they do not deny filching of fuel, they say such instances are minimal now because of increased awareness among customers and automated equipment.

There have also been moments of appreciation for many. “We have regular customers visiting the bunk for several years just for our service,” Vinoda said. Many women have also joined petrol bunks.

M. Annalakshmi, who works at BPCL bunk in Shanthi Colony, Anna Nagar, said: “I found it difficult to carry the heavy fuel vending gun. I get good salary if I work through the month. The most difficult part of the job is to convince customers that we have mixed the right proportion of oil and fuel. However, most customers are encouraging and trust us.”

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