Tuesday, February 14, 2006


To err is human. But, to really screw up requires a sub-super-human being, alias an Indian. I dont know how, but, we Indians (yup, that includes me too) are so annoying skilled in assuming what others think.
- We assume that the other person will stop his vehicle if we push ours into the middle of the road.
- We assume that its OK to skip the red light when there is no traffic on the other side.
- We assume that it is OK to take the right side of the road if the road is free.
- We assume that things will work out fine when we make a blunder and NOT tell anyone else about it.
- We assume that people will forgive us for our mistakes and things will be smooth if we do not talk about it.
- We assume that things will be fine if we are able to pacify the person we hurt.

The problem is that everybody around us think the same. And we end up cursing the others and the system, thereby justifying that "red-light skipping" today, or the "had to rush-through in traffic" situation.

A beautiful example to this is the incident that happened on my wife's birthday. We were having our dinner at our house when my sister-in-law called us up and told that their one month old Toyota Innova had coughed up to a standstill. We were shocked. Its TOYOTA. It just cant stop. Something HAD to have happened. We rushed to the scene. Then, we knew. ASSUMPTION was the brain behind the situation.

Till that incident, I had no idea whatsoever that
a) In petrol bunks, the first row is for diesel vehicles. the second row is for petrol vehicles.
b) Diesel also has an UNLEADED counterpart to petrol.
c) All Diesel vehicles will be stuck with a "DIESEL" label on the fuel tank. If there is no sticker, then it is petrol.

These information were not known to my relative at that time of filling the vehicle for Rs.500/-

Now, this petrol station did not put any board specifying which row was for petrol and which one was for diesel. Hence, seeing the "UNLEADED" sign, my relative assumed it was petrol and got his vehicle to the first row.

There was no sticker on the fuel tank cover, to specify the fuel type. The Toyota people ASSUMED that everyone in India will know the "Knowledge Point 3". Now, the petrol bunk person assumed that since they have parked in the diesel slot, it must be diesel. So, he did not tell/ask anything to the type of fuel to fill in the tank.

Hence, diesel was filled instead of petrol. The moment, they started it, the engine became very upset with the "bad food" being fed to it and started choking. Fortunately, they identifed the problem as soon as they left the fuel station. So, they stopped the vehicle at the bunk itself and caught up with the guys there. First, In true Indian style, they said that "all Innova are diesel only sir". Like true chennaivacees, these people had to threaten them of taking them to consumer court to make them accept their mistakes.
Mistake 1: They should have put up a board specying whether the slot was for diesel or petrol
Mistake 2: They must ask the customer what fuel they need to fill (petrol/diesel and the type of petrol/diesel (ordinary, super efficient, super screw up, et al).

Why these are mistakes? Well, all other (atleast those which I have seen) fuel stations had a board and specified clearly the type of fuel being used, and all consumers were asked the type of fuel they need, and also the ZERO value is shown to the customer before fuel is pumped into the vehicle.

So, they ended up towing the vehicle to the Toyota service room and speny 3000/- on the whole. The good news for them though is that since it was a petrol vehicle and diesel filled, the engine would not get damaged as diesel is a little more viscous than petrol. If it had been the other way, they can well assume a better screw-up of the engine.

I was more surprised that a company like Toyota, who dedicate themselves to quality, had left these little details on assumptions. They however had not missed it wholly. They had put "petrol" on the inner black cover of the tank. Anybody without an xray vision will miss it easily. Hope things dont go the "assumption" way while desigining safety kits in cars.

Next time when you go to a fuel station, be sure of the fuel you are feeding your vehicle.


Parthiban Sundaram said...

Hey Joe: This story makes me furious. But there are scores of stories like these.

As you point out, we blame the system and do nothing about it. When you have had enough and wanted to do something, you could not decide where to start, for the whole system is corrupt and inefficient. I cannot imagine how much trouble we would have to go through before bringing those petrol bunk suckers to justice!

As a first step towards a better system (& petrol bunks :-)), we need good people in the administration. The following news article that I read recently is indeed a breath of fresh air:

Anonymous said...

Hey Parthiban you have a point.

I had a problem with Petrol Bunk guys in Bangalore, lot of people had and also emails were spreading.

Once i went to fill petrol, the guy over there asked for how much. I told 100, he filled for four bucks and asked me again how much. I said 100, he told his colleague fill for 60 and he immediately brought the machine back to zero and his colleague filled my tank for 60. I was confused a bit waited there for two minutes then thought, i've would have mistaken 40 for 4. The next day I got mails from my colleagues about this problem in that particular bunk. Then it became clear they were cheating.

We Software people as always were forwarding mails, but no action. Who'll take the initiative and undergo the pain?

- Archie