x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Clean cut: no more windscreen wipe at the petrol station

Pump attendants at some petrol stations have been banned from giving motorists' windscreens a quick clean.

Customers are disappointed that pump attendants at some petrol stations are no longer allowed to wipe their windscreens
Customers are disappointed that pump attendants at some petrol stations are no longer allowed to wipe their windscreens

DUBAI // Drivers have been left feeling a little grubby, and pump attendants light in the pocket, after two petrol station groups changed a long-standing policy at their stations.

One such motorist was Shane Parker, who pulled into a station in Dubai to fill up but was dismayed to find his dusty windscreen remained just that. It turned out he was not alone - both Eppco and Enoc have stopped the free service for drivers at their filling stations, although neither company would say why. Despite his personal inconvenience, Mr Parker, who has lived in Dubai for two years, said the move had hit the pump attendants the hardest.

"Normally I'd tip the guy a few dirhams more if he cleaned my window but now they don't do it so they don't get the extra dirhams," he said. Petrol pump attendants said they had lost between Dh20 (US$5.45) and Dh30 a day each in tips since the new policy came into force over the past few weeks. Mr Parker, 36, a project manager from South Africa, said he still tipped attendants but not as much as he did when they would regularly take a squeegee to his windscreen.

"People get used to things being done for them and this is just another one of them. You get accustomed to things here," he added. Other drivers said it was more than an inconvenience, it was a safety issue. Abdul Hussain, 42, a human resources manager from Egypt, said that because he did not have time to wash his car regularly, the loss of the service made it harder to see clearly when driving, particularly at night.

"It's annoying. I asked them a few weeks ago to clean my windscreen and they just shrugged their shoulders, smiled and said they don't do it anymore. "I use the wipers whenever I can but it can get very bad over a few days. I would consider going to another garage if they'll clean my windscreen because I do not have the time to clean it every two to three days," he said. Navjay, 27, from India, who earns about Dh1,300 a month as a petrol pump attendant at an Enoc station in Jumeirah, said the change in policy left him Dh30 to Dh40 out of pocket every day.

"I make about Dh20 or Dh30 in tips a day, but it used to be Dh60 to Dh70," he said. At an Eppco station on Sheikh Zayed Road, Abdul Majeed, 28, has also seen a hefty fall in the amount he makes on tips, which he said had affected his family in India. "I earn Dh1,200 a month for doing this [job], and make about Dh30 a day in tips but it used to be Dh50 a day. "I used to live on the tips and send my monthly wage to my family but now I have to use some of that to live here. It's not a cheap place," he said.

Motorist Ian Daley, 34, from Australia, said the service should be reinstated as it was vital given the environment in the emirates. "It's not a luxury, it's an essential service in this country, which assists driver visibility and has a positive impact on road safety," said the marketing manager, who has lived in Dubai for four years. He said he now gives his custom to Emarat stations, where windscreen cleaning services still operate.

"I now go to the Emarat [station] on Sheikh Zayed Road purely because they wash the window. "It's a logical thing: get fuel; give the window a clean. I don't have 30 minutes to get a car wash," he added. To hand wash and valet an average 4x4 at an Eppco station costs Dh40, and Dh30 for a machine wash with interior cleaning. Abdullah al Noman, the manager of retail sales and operation at Emarat, confirmed that the screen washing service was still available.

"Cleaning windscreens is an integral part of our customer service standard and is part of our offer for our customers," he said. "Hopefully, we do not have any reason for stopping cleaning windscreens." However, he said it was not company policy for staff to keep the tips. If customers left extra change behind, it went towards staff incentives. "I think we have made it clear we do not take this money as a corporation," he said.

"Whatever we generate at the end of the month we spend it back on the staff. "We have lots of incentives: welfare activities; sport activities; fun days and prizes given to the staff. The money we spend on staff is more than the money generated [from tips]," Mr al Noman added. "We don't encourage the staff to take the tips. If they take it from the customer, we consider it as excess money because we have to protect the interest of the customer and the corporation. Sometimes they can cheat or overcharge the customer, claiming at the end of the day that it is a tip," he said.

But Rajesh, 32, from India, said he never counts his tips when he finishes a shift at the Emarat station in Jumeirah where he works. "When we finish work we hand our wallets back in with the day's takings. There is no point counting it because we don't want to know how much we are missing out on," he said. @Email:eharnan@thenational.ae