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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Self-service in petrol stations will soon become the norm

A high level of customer service is a perk, not a right

From mid-April Adnoc will introduce self-service options at its 40 petrol stations in Abu Dhabi. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National
From mid-April Adnoc will introduce self-service options at its 40 petrol stations in Abu Dhabi. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National

It’s a subject that has caused, in varying degrees, consternation, confusion and, in some cases, outright fear. Yet Adnoc’s decision to introduce self-service in its 40 petrol stations in Abu Dhabi is no different from the experiences of drivers in most countries where residents of the UAE hail from. Anyone who still wants a petrol station attendant to fill their car with fuel will be expected to pay a small fee for a premium service. The rest will be expected to get out of their cars and fill their tanks themselves or order petrol to be delivered to their homes.

As with the introduction of VAT at the start of this year, there are bound to be growing pains. But perhaps because we have become used to a subtly changing landscape as the country shifts from an oil-dependent economy to a more mature infrastructure, where residents are expected to contribute in fees and taxes to support public services, there are already signs of drivers adapting. In a poll of 3,000 of our readers today, 80 per cent said they would pump themselves. Nevertheless, if Adnoc’s 2016 self-service trial is any indication, there will be some disquiet. Long queues ensued then, due largely to flaws in the payment system. They should be clarified this time around. An educational campaign on petrol station etiquette will hopefully prevent misbehaving drivers from smoking, using mobile phones or leaving their engines on while filling up. Rather than attendants becoming redundant, they will be trained and on hand to give advice. They should be rewarded rather than their usual tips being sacrificed for the service fee. For those who can afford the luxury of having an attendant fill up for them, a few extra dirhams will mean little to drivers but will make a big difference to the workers who make our lives a little easier.

The mixed reactions to the decision will no doubt prompt cries of “First World problems”. It is all too easy to forget most of us enjoy extremely privileged lives in this country, where petrol is cheap but a high level of customer service is a perk, not a right. Ultimately, the market will dictate which service is most used, particularly in the unbearably hot summer months.