Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Learn How Not to Get Ripped Off at the Pump in Playa del Carmen Mexico

In the USA I'm used to the ease and painless procedure of refueling my vehicle.  The only real concern is finding a station with the lowest price and the shortest line.  In Mexico the rules change.  Although lines at the pump are short and the price is fixed by the government and only changes monthly, there are many other factors at the pump that can make your experience in Playa del Carmen, Mexico less than pleasant.

The first step at a Pemex station (official gas station of Mexico) is to get out of your car and stand near the pump.  This may seem counterintuitive, especially considering all pumps are full service.  In the USA at full service pumps the attendant would wonder what the heck I was doing watching him or her pump my gas.  Is he crazy, they would wonder?  In Mexico one needs to make sure they turn the pump back to 0.  Stations were notorious for starting the pump where the previous customer left off, thus making you pay for your gas and that of the customer before you (who already paid).  In my experience now a days that happens far less.  However, it's still a good idea to watch them and to let them know you are doing it.  They even expect it.  Every time they make a point of showing me that the pump has gone back to 0 even if I'm not looking.

It's also a good idea to know how much gas your car actually can take.  Some stations have had faulty pumps which were intentionally set to pump slower than the meter, so you might be charged for 10 liters even if you only received 2.  If the meter indicates more gas has been pumped into your tank than physically possible you should obviously point this out to the attendant and refuse to pay the amount indicated.  I think the government is doing a better job in regulating the meters so this won't happen, but you really never know.

The next step is to make sure that gas has actually been put into your tank.  Although I've never had the experience, I've heard from friends who have filled up their cars only to notice once they left the station that their tanks were still on empty.  This has been reported mostly at the station outside of Puerto Aventuras.  The victims then returned to the station and started screaming at the attendant.  I don't recall if they were allowed to get more gas or not or if they were issued a refund.

One of the most important rules is to keep track of the money.  At the gas station on the highway outside of Chichen Itza, a friend gave the attendant $500 pesos for gas only to have the attendant claim he received a $50 peso note.  The attendant then showed the $50 note to my friend, as evidence of his claim.  My friend then argued with him, and then left.  In their rear view mirror they saw the attendant pick up the $500 peso note that he had dropped and hidden under his shoe.

Equally important is to know how much change you are supposed to get back.  Don't just trust that they will automatically give you back the correct change.  I bought some drinks at the gas station last week and the attendant acted like she was not paying attention, and continued talking with another worker.  She then rapidly told me it was something like $69 pesos.  I gave her $70 pesos and then she returned $1 peso to me without a receipt.  When I asked for the receipt I noticed the total was only $65 pesos - she was trying to pocket the other 4 pesos.  I protested, she returned me the correct change, and I left.

I would also recommend paying for gas in cash.  This past year I heard from a client who claimed the station created a duplicate copy of their credit card and then began using it almost immediately ringing up ridiculous charges online for electronic items.  As a safety measure we pay cash whenever possible.

As a side note, tipping is encouraged for gas station attendants. As a general rule I only do it if they wash my windows (and haven't pulled any of the above-mentioned schemes).  Most of them do wash the windows, so the few lazy ones are obvious, and get nothing extra from me.  A general tip at a gas station is 10 or 20 pesos.

When you do run into problems you can always report the issues to Pemex via email (atencion.ciudadana@pemex.com).  I'm not sure how much good it will do. I think at a minimum if you are aware of the potential rip-offs, and do prevent them, you can at least feel good that perhaps you were smarter than them this time.  We would hate for our Playa del Carmen rental guests to have a bad vacation simply because of an unfortunate incident at a gas station.  To my knowledge, I've never been ripped off at a gas station.  Perhaps I am woefully ignorant.  However, I think if you look like you are aware and know what you're doing, generally they won't mess with you.  That being said the intelligence level of some attendants is very questionable, so I would not put it past them.

The price per liter of gas is displayed at the pump above the handle once it has been engaged by the attendant.  This price is fixed by the government, is the same at every station, and changes monthly.

Allan and our housekeeper's son, Jose, do a language interchange, helping the other with English or Spanish.

Jose and Allan

Mitzi and Demi.  Demi is still wearing a ribbon around her neck with the Mexican flag colors in celebration of Mexican Independence Day.  Mitzi doesn't wear those colors after the 20th of September.

Mitzi and Demi Playing

Mitzi howling with my encouragement.  She was far more vocal, sounding like a wolf, before she lost most of her hearing.


KfromMichigan said...

You know I could watch that video of them playing all day! (or at least several more times) They are so darn cute! I agree with the gas stations .. when I rent a car, we always get out of the car .. don't want to get ripped off.

Matt and Allan said...

Yes it seems like my readers like seeing the doggies so I am trying to incorporate them more.