back to article Petrol stations deploy anti-theft stingers

A number of UK petrol station owners have installed a £10,000 anti "drive-away" stinger system designed to discourage ne'er-do-wells from making off with fuel without paying, the Telegraph reports. The Drivestop was designed by Jaginda Singh, whose family-owned fuel outlet was almost brought to financial ruin by such incidents …


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  1. Dominic Kua
    Thumb Up

    All those years ago

    Hasselhoff saw this coming, KITT could easily leap over those spikes and indeed mock the garage owned whilst doing so.

    Expect to see KITT on a forecourt near you soon, it's evolution in action!

  2. scott


    On February 1st this year BC in Canada started requiring you to pre-pay for you petrol, of if you willing filling your tank, to leave your credit card with the cashier before you started filling up.

    Story can be found here

  3. Nick Drew
    Thumb Down

    'before abandoning the vehicle...'

    Sounds like it wasn't his car, hence his reluctance to pay for the petrol...

  4. David Gosnell

    Great ....

    .... but how long until the first malfunction?

    The damages to pay out could massively exceed the financial benefits.

    (Intentionally avoiding the otherwise inevitable side issues, btw)

  5. John Robson Silver badge

    And the failure case

    Is the forecourt forking out a grand for a new set of tyres?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Good on them

    as most drive aways are done by people without valid tax / insurance / MOT / Driving license, maybe it will get these off the roads and leave it for ones who have actually paid for these.

  7. Ash
    Thumb Down

    First time someone gets caught by this

    Have the owner arrested for criminal damage, and get the evidence inadmissible as they commited a crime obtaining it.

    You won't get off, but hopefully there won't be any more of these silly ideas.

    The solution is to REDUCE THE COST OF PETROL.

  8. Steve

    Moved the problem 1/2 mile down the road

    Well, it works to an extent, but they're just going to do a drive away at the petrol station half mile down the road.

    Until theres mass adoption we won't really know how much it will change things (IE if the petrol thieves put bauld tyres and fill them with puncture agent before they do a runaway?)

  9. Matt


    It would be OK if I installed this in the drive at home?

    Should stop anyone nicking my car.

  10. Jason Togneri

    Easy to prevent

    Around here (to be fair, not in the UK), the majority of pumps require a credit or debit card to be inserted and the PIN to be typed before the pump becomes active. Of course, for those who steal cards (and matching PINs) or who avoid paying credit card bills, it's not so effective, but I'm sure it would cut down the majority of this stuff, since any 'normal' person trying such a thing would find themselves with a bill or with a credit company or bank tracking them down for recompense.

  11. Test Man
    Thumb Up

    Re:All those years ago

    That's possibly the funniest comment I've ever seen on The Register!

    Admittedly I'm a bit biased cos I'm a huge Knight Rider fan but kudos regardless.

  12. A J Stiles
    Thumb Down

    This will just mean .....

    This will just mean that somebody will be working on a Stinger-proof tyre.

    Why don't they just change the system so that you have to pay for your fuel *first*, you get a token which must be inserted into the pump (so you can't just park the opposite side of a pump from someone who is going to pay for fuel, then shove the nozzle in your tank while they are still walking back) and dispensing stops automatically when you reach the amount you paid for? Would eliminate the annoying "£20.01" situation, too.

  13. Suzi


    Why not just insist on pre-paying for the petrol like they do in the US. I seem to remember it became much more coomon there when gas hit the astronomical $1 / gallon, and is now almost universal there.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So now when you get your car back you not only have to pay £20 to redo the lock but another £100+ for new tyres. Thanks.

  15. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge


    If only there was a simpler solution to retrofitting a gas station with a robotic checkout clerk that can slash your tires and tag you with a homing beacon.

    What this really means is that thieves will steal a couple pieces of robo-crippling plywood before they steal the gas.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    two words

    run flats.

  17. Craig Poxon

    America has a simple solution

    Why not get people to pay for the petrol before dispensing? I'm surprised we didn't move to this years ago. Might encourage more petrol stations to move to Pay at Pump solutions as well.

  18. adnim

    tagged rubber

    "And if he is able to hobble away on the rims, the system also embeds a tag bearing an ID number into the rubber, allowing cops to later identify the combustible-lifter."

    Providing the perp transfers the tag to the new set of tyres that he/she will undoubtedly replace the shredded set with.

    Later this year it will likely be cheaper to buy 4 run flat tyres than a tank of petrol, I guess this tech becomes redundant then.

  19. Peter Simpson
    Paris Hilton

    In the US, they ask you to pay first

    Pump shuts off when prepaid amount is exceeded. Sounds a lot cheaper (and more effective) than this.

    Less dramatic, though.

    /Paris knows all about sudden deflation

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is the obvious

    There is the obvious thing ... if you're going to do a driveaway, there'll be nothing stopping you from turning around and going out the in. Doh!

  21. frymaster


    Yes, absolutely, I demand the right to steal from garages if I think the prices are too high. Because it's 100% the fault of the retailer when the supplier raises prices. And my convenience is worth more than the livelihood of others.

  22. radian

    @ scott (Pre-Pay)

    '.....leave your credit card with the cashier....'

    Not a chance in hell. It'd have to be cash only for me.

  23. Steve


    In what way is it criminal damage if you stupidly drive over a set of spikes raised up in front of you. The garage owner isn't forcing you to drive onto the spikes.

    @In General

    I'm puzzled about the garage owner who'd lost £5,000 though. He had one drive away a week. So call it £200 a month loss. That five grand is the loss over 2 years, he's just shelled out 4 years worth of losses to install that device.

    Icon - can't decide on stop or go, the system must be fault.

  24. Anton Ivanov

    Re: First time someone gets caught by this

    I would love to see this in court. It is about time idiocies in the system are sorted out.

    The system is on the land belonging to the petrol station You are entitled not to drive over it. If you do it, you do it on your own volition. It has been clearly marked with all relevant warning signs. So if you drive over it, it should be your problem. If you do not like it there is always the option of calling the police and complaining that the petrol station assistant is illegally restraining you. Let's see how will this one work right after you have shoplifted.

    Enough is enough, time to stop the madness where innocent people get charged because someone gets hurt breaking into their property and slips on the stairs.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pay @ Pump

    Another solution, make sure you drive out beside someone who has paid, will they still press the button. Anyone know what the clearance is on these things as well, us sports car drivers might loose a lot more than tyres.

    I regularly use a couple of petrol stations with Pre-pay, but it's virtually always switched off. A petrol station you can be sure of, of, of.

  26. Tim Hughes

    Pay First = Less Business

    Most garages want you to browse and buy grocery type stuff as they all seem to have shops attached - this is why pay first is not popular in this country.

    Also, the system seems to be automated to detect people driving away without paying, and have lots of warning signs and an audible alarm, which say "don't drive over the spikes when the red traffic lights are flashing. You have been warned.". So its a bit like a EULA, i.e. "By inserting this nozzle, you are agreeing to having spikes stuck up your rear tyres if you drive off". The police seem to be OK with it.

  27. Tim Hughes


    ... and then the stupid thief discovers that there are spikes there as well. Duh!

  28. Steve Evans

    Easier solution...

    In some of the seedier parts of town, especially after dark when the attendants lock themselves away behind the bullet proof glass, and the interchange of money is done though a metal draw, insisting on pre-pay is pretty much the norm. Especially if you happen to ride a motorbike and can't be arsed to take your crash helmet off.

    However I have to wonder about forecourt layout, I know plenty of garages that are just surrounded by a curb with a bit of grass... so avoiding the spikes is just a simple matter of driving slowly up the curb, over the grass, and then away to freedom. If you happen to be in a 4x4, you wouldn't even need to do it slowly.

    Maybe I should set up a business just making "Warning! Anti-thief spike strips in operation" signs.

  29. Gareth

    @A J Stiles

    ~30m cars on the road in the UK (source: SMMT). Assume each fills up once every 2 weeks on average, even a 1p overage adds up to £150,000 a /week/ or £7.8m a year in extra revenue for the petrol companies.

    Over here in the US (204m cars on the road) the pre-pay pumps let you run over by a couple of cents every time if you're paying by card - at 1c overage that's $1.2m/wk or $53m/yr in extra revenue.

    Based on those figures I doubt we'll be seeing auto-rounding pumps any time soon...

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Lol @ the cashier alert demo where the perp is long gone before the cashier notices anything amiss, doesn't even look like the system did anything!

  31. smell fresher


    "I'm puzzled about the garage owner who'd lost £5,000 though. He had one drive away a week."

    Ah, but that one drive away a week was a petrol tanker.

  32. Steve


    A potential problem with this is if one overestimates, or worse still, underestimates the amount of fuel needed, they'll going to the koisk twice to pay/receive the difference - especially if, like me, they like to 'brim it'.

    However, if that was somehow overcome (and it probably can be), the queues could well vanish because drivers can pre-pay while waiting in the queue for the pump, hence they only occupy the pump station only when getting the fuel - instead of continuing to occupy the pump station when waiting in the payment queue so forcing everyone behind to needlessly wait longer. Now I think about it I remember seeing just that in some forecorts in Germany. It sounds too much like common sense so it's sure not to be adopted!

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Some of the advocates of prepay have previously commented that governments shouldn't be allowed to incarcerate someone on suspicion of them being a terrorist, mentally instable or an otherwise potential criminal. Yet they don't see a problem with a petrol station treating you as an already convicted criminal by getting you to pay before you fill up. Would you feel the same if Tescos asked you to leave your credit card at the door before you went in. If I inadvertently stop at a prepay station I drive to another more civilized establishment, I'm a customer not a thief and expect to be treated as such.

    These things are a good idea, they target real thieves. I'd also like to see them linked to traffic lights on pedestrian crossings in such a way that any idiot attempting to run down a pedestrian against a red light gets stopped. Then I'd put said idiot blindfolded in a car on rails heading towards a zebra crossing across which walk members of their family and have them forced to hit the accelerator. Should bring home nicely the consequences of their actions.

  34. Nic
    Thumb Down


    I assume you operate this principle accross all purchases, if you consider them too expensive you steal the item?

  35. Gordon

    Bed of nails

    Whilst I appreciate that we motorcyclists are the spawn of Santa and deserve anything nothing short of hanging, but I dread to think of the consequences of a motorcycle being impaled on the spikes and unseating the rider. Falling on to them is going to hurt - and where is that ID tag going to end up being inserted?

    Of course we two-wheeled villans with 15 to 20 litre fuel tanks are far more of a problem than cars with 60 litre tanks - so much so that one station has admitted to not wanting to serve fuel to bikes.

    Or what about:

    Whoops, sorry! Pressed the wrong button there...


    Oh dear - wrong car... Sorry about that. That'll be 50p to use the air pump please.

  36. Bob Gender

    Shell, home of the cloner

    Having had 2 cards cloned at my local Shell petrol station (along with 3 or 4 friends), can I fit spikes to my card that impale the hand of the skimmer when they do their under-the-counter maneuver?

  37. nae
    IT Angle

    wood you credit it

    a clever ploy that is of no doubt

    foiled by a sheet of ply wood or similar

    ok so that takes pre planning and fore thought

    but its certainly a fallible system

  38. Louis Cowan

    Good idea

    Instead of spikes, why not just have a pneumatic lifting device positioned under the middle of where the car would park, which would lift the vechile about 1 inch off the ground, enough so that the tyres don't touch?

    Could be used every time the pumps are, wouldn't cause any damage should the system fail, would mean that people who "accidentally" forget to pay don't come seeking compensation for burst tyres etc, and would mean that cars aren't released until their petrol is paid for?

  39. bluesxman
    Thumb Down

    solution looking for a problem

    Like so many have suggested, pre-pay would prevent the need for such costly devices.

    And would you really want the option of keeping an angered petrol thief on your forecourt in full I'm-going-to-cut-you-like-you-cut-my-tyres mode?

    @ Nick Drew

    Thanks for pointing out the obvious... Since the article states "car thief" it's pretty much safe to conclude it wasn't their car!

  40. david wilson


    If the device does incapacitate stolen vehicles, shouldn't there be some reward from insurance companies to the garage owner for stopping the car relatively intact before some worthless toe-rag gets bored and torches or wrecks it?

  41. Steve Foster

    @Steve, @Gareth


    A 4 year payback on an investment is quite good in business terms. And realistically that's a worst case scenario. Given that a tank of fuel can cost well over £100 (even a medium size h/back will take at least £60 to fill today), and the quote said "at least one per week", the losses are probably running at closer to £500/mo than £200/mo.


    The petrol companies aren't gaining anything extra from the overage - you get the 1-2p worth of fuel.

  42. Jamie


    It will become pre-pay, but instead of doing the same stupid thing and punishing the law abiding citizen why not start acutally punishing the criminal. Left without paying the car is taken. Alot of the issues with congestion and traffic crimes are done by people driving illegally.

    15 year old gets busted for stealing a car, speeding, evading police. What does the British Justice System do, 18 month suspended license. The kid is not even old enough to drive.

    alternatively you could just put snipers on the forecourt and shoot the damn driver when he tries to do a runner. That will take on driver off the road and one car, the enviro-freaks would love this, less CO2 released.

  43. Derek Brabrook

    easy solution ......

    People would probably syphon it from their neighbours car first rather than face stingers at the forecourt, mind you at the price it is now and what it's going to be soon we will all be drinking meths from brown paper bags under the railway embankment soon telling stories about the time we had a really nice house and job... and does anybody remember how petrol smelled .......

  44. mlp

    @ Chris W

    You're not a thief, granted.

    But by the same token Tescos isn't going to let you put their goods in your car until you've paid for them.

  45. AC
    Paris Hilton

    This needs to go one step further ...

    And detonate the car in question, after all we dont want criminals in the gene pool.

    Paris because she enjoys the gene pool

  46. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    Leave your card with the cashier...?

    And have it skimmed and used for purchases abroad like all those thousands who were ripped off at garages last year...??

  47. Adrian
    Paris Hilton

    How can garages legally do this

    but I can't shoot an intruder in my house when he is commiting an illegal act ? Will it be OK from now on if I just ram metal spikes into his feet to stop him running away ?

    Paris, because I hear she likes being rammed with something long and hard.

  48. Ross

    Pre pay ftw

    So Chris W presumably never books a holiday, uses the train, goes to the cinema, etc? We prepay for many things, I don't have a problem with doing it for petrol. In fact I *welcome* it. Why?...

    Like anything, when a business prices an item for sale they work out how much it will cost them to provide that item to you including resources, transport costs, taxes etc. Then they add their profit margin. Then that;s the final cost right? No, then they add a "theft buffer" - they know ppl are going to steal some of their stuff, so they add that cost to what all the honest ppl pay. Yes - you and I are paying for the goods that the thieves steal. Companies adopting prepay can therefore offer a cost saving to their customers, hopefully attracting them inspite of the perceived "hassle" that some people see with it.

    I personally would rather pay 108p per litre up front rather than 113p per litre it is at most places. It's still around $10 a gallon but any savings are welcomed.

  49. A J Stiles

    @ Chris W

    So I presume you don't have a mobe, then? After all, by your reckoning, the phone companies are "treating you as an already convicted criminal" by getting you to pay before you dial a number.

    There's also rather a difference between the state depriving someone of their liberty, potentially indefinitely; and a private company depriving someone of some money they were already going to spend anyway, for as long as it takes them actually to take possession of the goods.

    In **any** purchase transaction, **either** the buyer must hand over the payment to the seller before receiving the goods **or** the seller must hand over the goods to the buyer before receiving the payment. It's a problem as old as commerce itself.

    In a supermarket, you don't need to leave your credit card at the door before you go in, but they've still got you -- you are effectively trapped within the store until you have paid for the contents of your trolley.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Wouldn't requiring customers to prepay (as someone else mentioned) be a heck of a lot cheaper than installing some crazy system to stop drive-offs? I suppose the "spike system" would work, but all it would take is one malfunction for the station owner to be liable for over $1000 worth or tires, or a pending lawsuit. In the US, most stations have been prepay for years. I can't remember the last time I bothered to go in to a station to pay, preferring to use a debit card at the pump.

  51. Spleen


    "I'm puzzled about the garage owner who'd lost £5,000 though. He had one drive away a week. So call it £200 a month loss. That five grand is the loss over 2 years, he's just shelled out 4 years worth of losses to install that device."

    The owner said himself that theft incidents had risen as the price went up. The price of petrol will continue to increase, and could conceivably increase a hell of a lot within the lifetime of his business. And society could get even more f---ed up as well. Sounds like a potentially good investment to me.

    @Gordon: Not a biker myself, but when you fell off a forward-moving bike, wouldn't you be thrown forward, clear of the spikes?

  52. Peter Fielden-Weston

    In France

    a number of the larger service stations have a pay at the exit routine. You cannot drive out of the entrance as that has a one way barrier. The exit also has a barrier in place to prevent anyone charging through. The verge also has a very high kerb, high enough to stop a 4x4 or similar vehicle.

    These service stations only sold fuel and had plenty of space for queueing before & after the pumps so the throughput was fast enough to be convenient.

  53. This post has been deleted by its author

  54. Steve

    cool :D

    Now we just need them at traffic lights and my smile will be permanent.

  55. Mr B

    Long piece of pipe

    attach an extra long pipe to the gas tank filler neck, park on the street outside the protected area fill it up as you would if you were willing to pay.


    Two lengths of tubes hanging underneath and across the car in front of the wheels retained by pieces of bungee cord, then drop them few millimetres above the ground so it gets stuck against the spikes when moving and allow you to roll over the spikes ... puncture free. Once done reverse shortly (but far enough) to stop the tube rubbing against the tyre and also get it back in position for the next row of spikes or gas lift.

    / I'm really busy today can't wait to get me coat and out.

  56. Richard Cartledge


    Like everything else we have had under the Labour government, it tackles the symptom rather than the cause, so we will see more people with their car's fuel tanks drilled. Tackle the crooks, not inanimate objects.

  57. Dan


    There is a station on the A3 in South West London that solved the pre-pay issue (overtanking etc..) by having a pump that locks in your card and lets you have fuel once you have entered the pin. When you return the nozzle to its holster, it bills you, locks the fuel line and gives you your card back.

    Great system, unfortunately when I used it the system decided to crash and locked my card in.

    So more a solution in search of decent hardware / programmer really.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Ross and AJ Stiles

    I have neither mobile phone nor credit card. The last time I went to the cinema was early 80s to see Porkies. For holidays we go to a house in the village my wife hails from, no booking required. I can't remember the last time I was on a train.

    The Tesco thing stands, you collect your goods then pay for them before leaving, obviously they don't let you take them to your car nor all the way home before doing so. As for honest people pay, yes they do but do you think that if all theft stopped overnight the stores would reduce prices. Tell you what, I'll bet a fair amount that when the price of oil goes down the pump prices for petrol will stay as they are for a long time.

    I prefer to have goods in my hands before paying, you don't, vive la diference.

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    <no title>

    Once went to a garage that had the cheek to ask me to pre-pay the petrol. Was so incensed at the blatant insinuation I didn't go there again for years. Discovered that they'd stopped that silly game at some point.

    Meanwhile; time to break out the solid tyres methinks :-) Reckon I could make a bomb selling them.

  60. Andrew Norton

    pre-pay and other options

    My wife does a lot of driving (her and our civic have done 50k miles since October). One of the fuel chains around Atlanta (and elsewhere) is Quick-Trip. They have pay-at-the-pump, as do many others. Thats fine if you use a card to pay. However, it's not so helpfull if you use cash. So, they have another solution. You can register for a 'pumpstart' card. It's a card with your name, and driving license number on it. Instead of having to pre-pay, you insert the card. You get the flexibility of filling up, and paying after, and the station gets to know who's pumping. When they clear the pump, as you pay, it releases the card info from the pump. If you drive off, they have a DL number to associate with it. If it's not cleared from that pump, it won't work in another (had that where a new cashier forgot to clear it properly when it was busy - most QT stations have 32+ pumps)

    ChrisW - Tesco don't let you put your shopping in the back of your car, before you pay, either.

    Louis Cowan - many problems with the lifting idea. First, most floorpans of cars aren't designed to take the weight of a vehicle. Thats why there are jacking points. You also would have to park everyone's car in the exact same place, for it to work on the tyres. A 1 inch rise would also mean nothing for a land rover, but would stop a mini. To stop a Land Rover, you'd have to lift it a foot or so, and then you've got problems getting in and out of the vehicle.

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    When I read the headline, I expected to read about "Stinger" missiles -- that would have taken care of the thieving bastards. What a let-down.

  62. Andy Hards

    @ Chris W

    The difference is that by entering the forecourt and attempting to buy fuel you are accepting the terms of the fuel supplier. The govt holding people suspected of terrorist offences is usually only used when they have enough evidence anyway, they don't usually just grab a random person off the street and say 'you might be a terist' well not in the YUK, maybe in the USofStupidity.

    But all this does is tell the thieves to go down the road and use the non spike gas station.

    Anyway, shouldn't the Petrol Station shops by charged with theft as they've put the price of Muller Corners up 5 times in the last few months. They started at 39p and are now 60p!!! Some of their bread is almost 2 quid a loaf! TWO KIN QUID!!! FOR A LOAF OF BREAD!

    Can we have an ANGRY icon?

  63. Tom

    Michelin 'run flats' and tire-weld...

    Maketh the man, or exiting via the entrance to the forecourt.

  64. radian

    @ Adrian (How can garages legally do this)

    'Will it be OK from now on if I just ram metal spikes into his feet to stop him running away ?'

    quality :-)

  65. Benedict
    Thumb Down

    @Chris W

    "Then I'd put said idiot blindfolded in a car on rails heading towards a zebra crossing across which walk members of their family and have them forced to hit the accelerator."

    You are sick. I take it someone in your family has been involved in an accident with an wreckless driver in the past.

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Michelle Knight

    You can put non-return ramps/spikes that you can only drive one way over. They have been around for years and years.

  67. Eduard Coli
    Thumb Down


    Hope they have insurance in case of a false alarm...

  68. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not Legal

    Not legal to use in UK.

  69. Christoph

    That explains it

    Could this be why El Reg is so insistent on wanting flying cars?

  70. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I have once in the UK used a "prepay" pump, you put your card in, pin code, pump away.

    But petrol stations make there profit in there little shops. So why not...

    Pump your fuel.

    Pump gives you a ticket.

    You go in and pay for ticket (and other items you want).

    They swipe your ticket etc when you pay.

    You use the ticket to get out of a barrier.

    We are all used to doing such stuff for parking. The cost of the system though I wouldn't know, but then again, tickets vs automated payment pumps?

  71. A J Stiles

    @ Andy Hards

    "Some of their bread is almost 2 quid a loaf! TWO KIN QUID!!! FOR A LOAF OF BREAD!"


    I haven't bought a loaf of bread this millennium, but I was always under the impression that I was paying an unbegrudged premium for home-made bread as opposed to something that tasted rather like soggy cardboard. Looks like I'm actually up on the deal, then.

    And the only times I have bought yoghurt since February were when I forgot to save a spoonful to start my next batch. (Easier than you think, actually. Home-made yoghurt and real fruit preserve is what a Müller Corner could only ever dream of pretending to be, one day.)

  72. Andrew Stubbs

    Ooh, that could hurt

    What do these steel spikes shooting up from the ground do to the feet of unwary or unlucky pedestrians who just happen to be standing in the wrong place at the wrong time?

  73. Matt


    Um, my local ASDA is 80% of the way to a solution... the petrol station is a Drive-Thru. You get the fuel, get in the car, and drive up to the Windows to pay, McD style.

    Just add some one-way spikes at the entrance and a decent barrier at the exit and most of the problem is solved.

    You can't buy any goodies like a conventional rip-off forecourt though. May be a sticking point for most of those who sell Red Bull for £2 a can, dry pasties for £3 and manky sandwiches for £4 each. (You know who you are).

  74. Liam Meadows


    "Having had 2 cards cloned at my local Shell petrol station (along with 3 or 4 friends), can I fit spikes to my card that impale the hand of the skimmer when they do their under-the-counter maneuver?"

    Your friends are clones from Shell ..... Cool.....

  75. Anonymous Coward

    @Chris W.

    There are plenty of services that already treat you this way... My cable is paid a month in advance. My mortgage requires me to pay before the due date, not after I'm done living in my house. If you buy a car, it's a done deal before you drive it off the lot. And so on, and so on... It's only treating someone "like a criminal" if they discriminate and make some people pay in advance, not everyone.

  76. TeeCee Gold badge


    "Since the article states "car thief" it's pretty much safe to conclude it wasn't their car!"

    I dunno, it might have been his day off.

  77. Steve Mann

    Prepay, the New York way

    You walk to the kiosk, slap down a small gold bar and announce that you're filling the tank. When the tank is full, you return to the kiosk in the vain hope the price hasn't risen during the fueling and you'll see some change.

    Honestly, how is pre-paying "punishing" anyone? You find a station you trust and you pay at the pump using a credit card. You watch the statements to make sure some crafty sod hasn't rewired the pump to short you - it happens every so often - and you get on with life.

    If you have to deal in cash, you slap down enough to cover the tank filling or you live with the tank not being full when the money runs out.

    Maybe it's just me, but I'm having a hard time seeing the tremendous burden this places on someone over the pump it then pay for it model.

  78. Chris


    Almost every chain gas station here in the US has "pay at the pump". This is NOT the same thing as pre-payment. You swipe your cc at the pump, and they put an authorization hold on for the estimated charge (sometimes it is only a dollar though, to make sure the card is valid). Only after you are done pumping does the transaction actually complete. You only need to prepay if you are paying cash.

    Of course, another answer would be to bring back the full-service gas station.

    When you think about it, most things are paid in advance of use/possession. The fact that you can pick it up and carry it to the front of the store before paying is not really different. The only exception I can think of is restaurants, where you eat the food first, then pay for it. But in fast food places, they require you to pay first, especially if it's a drive through.

  79. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "mortgage requires me to pay before the due date"

    Prepay mortgage? Let's see, you pay upfront and then in a number of years the lender gives you a mortgage for the amount you've paid and you don't have to worry about interest because you've already paid it.

    I know the banks are having a hard time of it these days but I don't think even they would think up something like that.

  80. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lots of places in USA have "pre-pay"

    It usually consists of a reader on or near the gas pump. You slide your card in, and then pump your gas. When you are done, you get a receipt. In fact I did it yesterday, using my ATM card filling up my big ugly SUV for $79.00 (it was about 20 (US) Gallons). Places all over the US have these nice "pay at the pump" stations. Some stations (ARCO in the USA) have cash acceptors near the pumps that will gladly swallow denominations from $1 to $20 allowing you to put at least that much gas. For change, you go inside to a PFY type cashier saying "change on pump #5" and folding green stuff (with pictures of dead presidents and other elder statesmen) is handed over. Actually quite convenient.

    While I can understand that cash acceptors might be difficult (different sizes of money for different denominations), credit card pay at pump ought to be easy to do.

    Oh, yes, they have one way versions of spikes in lots of places (parking lots) here too.

  81. david wilson


    Wouldn't petrol stations be an ideal place for police-funded ANPR cameras?

    Given how infrequently people fill up, having a record of where cars were and when wouldn't be any use for tracking people's speed (which should satisfy the I-have-a-god-given-right-to-speed brigade).

    Civil liberty-wise, most people already buy fuel on plastic, and so their movements wouldn't be more trackable than they already are.

    Unlike ANPR cameras on the road, which people are effectively driving away from by the time their details are recognised, people spend at least a few minutes filling up and paying, giving nearby police a much better chance to turn up and collar toe-rags driving stolen cars, (or those without MOT/insurance, etc) while they are parked.

  82. Anonymous Coward

    naah this is way too passive and liberal.

    what are you lot about ?

    I reckon every car should be strapped with a remote controlled gun pointing upwards beneath the driver's seat.

    Any policeman , or petrol forecourt owner could then remotely summarily execute anyone *suspected* of a minor road-traffic / running off with petrol crime.

    We could roll out Anne Widecombe saying "they deserved to be shot for stealing 60 pounds of petrol / going 1 MPH over the speed limit"

    The excessive and instantaneous of the judgement and punishment would

    1) make those driving cars very careful

    2) get a lot of people to walk

    I think it's a brilliant plan , but then again my shrink told me that I have more issues than "Beano". What in the hell does he know anyway ?

    (this is a joke to those that don't get it !)

  83. Anonymous Coward

    yes, yes, yes

    "Now we just need them at traffic lights and my smile will be permanent."

    Mine too!

    Only with a lot of determination and with great effort I managed to get back up onto the stool from the floor...

  84. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Not legal

    Well a midlands Chief Constable seems to think it's legal. When a garage had this system fitted it was featured on the local news, they got him along to interview alongside the device, which he praised. Like the article said, they did their homework and it was certified legal by all the relevant authorities.

    I think it's a great idea and though pre-pay might work, nothing feels better than causing thieves financial or physical pain. After a couple of breakins to my garden shed I'd have happily laid land mines to catch the bastards. The Police suggested a legal alternative, plastic wall/fence spikes which cause pain but not serious injury. A couple of coppers even suggested going further "draw some blood and that will stop them" and recommended using carpet grip instead.

  85. Anonymous Coward


    yes, all the objections are good. Pre-paying has its points, but it is stupid for a number of reasons. However, you seem to have ALL missed a solution that is common in several EU countries and is a nice compromise between the two - insert your credit card first - WITHOUT PRE-PAYING, please note - so that you can get what you want without being forced to use a set amount, but also so that you don't get petrol before you've given a valid card (and entered its PIN). There are many unmanned petrol stations around here in my EU country of choice, where it works entirely in this fashion - very hard to steal the petrol, since you need a valid card to get the machine to work, and once you remove the card before getting into your car again, the machine stops. Perfect and simple. Honestly!

  86. Martin
    Thumb Down

    @ ANPR

    AFAIK the police already DO have linked ANPR in all the petrol stations.

    As for pre-pay; the pumps you put your credit card in are no problem (when they actually work), but the garages that insist you pay in full at the window before filling up can sod off. I always fill the tank right up (its the only way to get accurate fuel economy records), how am I supposed to do that then? The garages that insist on pre-payment are usually the most expensive ones anyway...

  87. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @ <no title>

    "Once went to a garage that had the cheek to ask me to pre-pay the petrol. Was so incensed at the blatant insinuation I didn't go there again for years."

    Yep, I'm the same. In this case the service station involved was the one right next to the rental car agency I use when travelling for business purposes - so they've lost the "fill before return" business to another one just down the road, and cost their oil company my business anywhere in the country.

    I'm typically purchasing 60~80 litres a day when travelling, so congratulations BP, you've lost out to the tune of $1000's over the last few months on both my business and personal fuel purchases due to the action of one servo which chooses to assume all it's customers are criminals.

  88. Steve

    @ Mr B

    "Long piece of pipe": "attach an extra long pipe to the gas tank filler neck, park on the street outside the protected area fill it up as you would if you were willing to pay."

    A nice idea, but garage attendents usually confirm there is a car at the pump before activating it. You standing there, nozzle in hand, no car beside you, is going to look just a little bit iffy!

  89. Chloe Cresswell Silver badge

    Pay at pump

    My local shell has pay at pump, but I have chip and sign cards. Put one of those in and it tells you it can't accept that type of card.

  90. Steve


    I have always paid cash for my fuel, I never use my plastic. I never will considering the various reported instances of skimming, by attendents or devices placed at unattended stations, let alone the unreported instances!!

    Try not to voice judgements of others without first thinking through your own arguments!

  91. Jeffrey Nonken

    Pre-pay or not

    Most of the places I use here in the States either want you to pre-pay (if you're using cash) or scan your card first. If you use a card it will charge your card after you pump, so you aren't required to pay a fixed amount. If you overpay the cash you will get change, though the Gods know we Americans as a group are so fit that an extra walk to the desk to pick up our change can only be seen as a bad thing.

    It's not like we could use the exercise.

    Personally, I don't see pre-paying as an insult. It's just business. As somebody pointed out, either I get the petrol first, or he gets the money first. And he's the one more likely to be stolen from.

    Pre-pay / pre-scan is a better, less intrusive, and less dangerous solution than this spike thing. MHO.

  92. Kanhef

    re: @ all of you

    That's the near-universal system in the US as well. It pre-authorizes the card for $75 or so to make sure they'll be able to charge it successfully. Convenient for the consumer, no possibility of theft.

  93. Glen Turner

    @Kanhef - pre-authorized gas pumping

    > That's the near-universal system in the US as well. It

    > pre-authorizes the card for $75....

    There's one bug. If you try to use a foreign debit card the pre-authorization doesn't disappear for a week or so. So you end up losing $75 + the gas price for the week. If you fill up often, because you're travelling, it doesn't take too long before your holiday savings are tied up in pre-authorizations. Same issue with hotels. When travelling in the USA you really need a *credit* card.

  94. Anonymous Coward

    @ Louis Cowan

    Air jacks to lift a car up during re-fueling..... I always thought those F1 drivers were theiving bastards!!

  95. Tony Paulazzo
    Thumb Down

    BP posted a 3 month profit warning of three BILLION!!!!

    >I'm typically purchasing 60~80 litres a day when travelling, so congratulations BP, you've lost out to the tune of $1000's over the last few months on both my business and personal fuel purchases due to the action of one servo which chooses to assume all it's customers are criminals.<

    Pah - pocket change....

    There are some thieves about - and it's not the folks who can't afford to put petrol in their car...

  96. Tony Paulazzo

    And don't forget

    The government takes about 60 pence out of every litre of petrol you buy, and BP / Shell still managed to clear a PROFIT! of over one billion pounds sterling over thirty days!

    Yep, someone's stealing off someone.

    Really need a 'rant' icon of some description.

  97. Andy Worth

    Financial sense?

    The owner seems to have very little. He's paid £10k for a system to save him £2500 a year, assuming that nothing goes wrong with the system in 4 years (unlikely) meaning that he would have to pay out for maintenance. It also assumes a complete lack of human or mechanical error resulting in the tyres of an innocent motorist being ruined (and the resultant costs - as sure as hell if it was me then I'd sue the shit out of the garage). Furthermore it assumes no loss of sales, either through people moving elsewhere or perhaps a mechanical failure meaning people cannot leave the garage.

    It just seems like a really expensive way to partially fix a problem.

  98. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I worked in a petrol station

    I worked in a petrol station in rural(ish) England every weekend for about a year, and I never had one drive-off, only heard about one or two from the other people who worked there. The bigger problem was the boss hiring chavvy staff whose mates nicked stuff.

    Also, pay-at-pump or pre-pay is probably hugely unpopular as the petrol station I worked in hardly made any money off the fuel, all the profit was made from the shop, so you need people to come in the shop and buy a paper and a mars bar while they pay for their fuel, otherwise fuel prices at the pump would have to rise so the petrol station continues to make a profit.

  99. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo

    Fancy some new tyres?

    Just wait until the stinger goes wrong, deploys with the barrier up and takes wheels off of your car. Then, sue, sue, sue for damages. I am sure you could get a new car if you tried hard enough.

    Grumpy Old Git

  100. Mr B


    Hmmm did not think of that, hey wot the hell, it's free gas we are talking about, I can make an ass of meself for a few secs.

    Thanks for the input.

    Alternatly I could lift a nozzle close enough to a car being filled to trick the attendent in thinking there is a car ... should work if the court is busy.

    ... get a real size photo glued on a of car shaped cardboard ... this may have a couple of drawbacks but I'll get there eventually.

    I think I've got it, get the hydros from a lowrider and fit a navy blue vauxhall (unnoticeable) with it ... and you can hop away ... OK the balaclava might be a bit of tale tell.

    /Busy Friday afternoon ahead ...

  101. Graham Dawson Silver badge

    some sort of title

    "The government takes about 60 pence out of every litre of petrol you buy, and BP / Shell still managed to clear a PROFIT! of over one billion pounds sterling over thirty days!"

    Yes, because the price at the pump rose to preserve the profit margin in the face of an increasing tax percentage. No other company would be expected to sit by when the government basically took away its profits.

    Most oil company margins are about the same as most other successful businesses though, around 10%. It's the volume that matters, and given the huge volume of sales oil companies make it's no surprise they have these huge profit. Go look at the stats of how much petrol Shell sells in a week, worldwide and suddenly that one billion profit is put into perspective. If Microsoft (for example - hey it's an IT site, lets get some reference to IT in here) were to sell several billion quids worth of software every week they'd also have huge profits.

    A billion is a big number, but it's only big in comparison to small numbers. Oil doesn't just squirt out of the round into the waiting barrels of cigar-smoking magnates in huge cowboy hats. If you look at the costs involved in oil production, the R&D, the exploration costs that often turn out to be dead-ends (i.e. a non-recoverable expense) then the oil company profits make sense. They're a big number alongside a whole bunch of other big numbers. And if you look at where those profits come from - quite apart from petroleum sales there's a whole bunch of other oil-derived products out there - then the scale of the operation becomes apparent and the profits no longer seem excessive. Or should a company be forced to lower its margins just because it has extra zeroes after its annual turnover? Raising taxes won't do that. They just pass it on to the consumer. The only way to stop that is to introduce price controls but, price controls simply remove the incentive to produce.

    I'll tell you who's stealing! It's OPEC! Broon said so!

  102. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    One solution

    Just design a forecourt that "locks" your car in a bay as soon as you drive into it - sort of like the anti terror barriers that come up from the road. Or a barrier that comes out automatically sensing the length of your vehicle so that it places one barrier at the front and one at the rear. The tech is already out there, car washes use it.

    The car would not be released until you had paid for your fuel or the attendant unlocks your bay.

  103. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Mr B

    Not all petrol station attendants are stupid, you know. Sure, some are, but I reckon I'd have been able to tell the difference between a car and a cardboard cut-out, or notice that two people were trying to fill the same car at once, no matter how busy the forecourt was.

  104. Cheesey

    This will just move the problem along

    to the next petrol station down the road that doesn't have Stinger or pay at pump.

  105. david wilson


    >>"AFAIK the police already DO have linked ANPR in all the petrol stations."


    in which case, wouldn't it be easy to flag up any stolen cars, or repeat drive-away offenders?

    Even if someone used false plates, having to change them every time they filled up would be a bit of a chore.

  106. david wilson

    Why £2500?

    The petrol station owner said he had *at least* one drive-away per week - the average could be rather higher than that, and the cost could indeed be £5k/year.

    That's also not taking account of the fact that some drive-aways are from people filling up extra tanks in the boot or back seat.

  107. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @ Mr B

    Also, what you seem to fail to realise, is that as a petrol station attendant I could stop the pump at any point, so the moment you attach your long tube and start to fill a car at the side of the road, I would press the red button and the pump would be un-authorised. Try again with a different hare-brained scheme, maybe.

  108. Stef


    I had my number plates nicked off my car by some pikey with a screwdriver. A number of days later I was filling up my bike at the local station when I saw my car reg. on a list at the counter, apparently they had immediately filled up at the end of my road and driven off (very smart). So a stinger could have scored a double victory there.

  109. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why is it any more illegal than those at car parks

    Many car parks have systems that prevent you from exiting via the entrance, or other methods of payment avoidance. These are less technologically advanced, but are usually only protected by a "No entry - Tyre damage" sign. They are perfectly legal, so what's the difference here?

    Furthermore how do you pre pay for fuel when I don't know how much your tank will take. Hand my card over to the attendant before filling? Yeah right. I've been victim to card fraud twice and both times it was traced to petrol station attendents. Outside of the internet it's the most common source of stolen card details.

    Most of the payment solutions suggested seem to rely on paying by card, I know the banks and card services would love it if they could force us all to pay by card, after all they don't get a cut of the transaction if you pay cash.

  110. Matt Thornton

    RE: All those years ago

    I already found said forecourt. It's in Stamford, CT, as evidenced by this photo on my FB:

  111. Adam

    Why spikes?

    Retractable bollards do a pretty good job of stopping unwanted passage by vehicles... just look at all the youtube vids of idiots trying to sneak into "no entry" areas behind buses!

    1) it's a proven technology

    2) it isn't going to impale anyone unfortunate enough to slip on a diesel spillage nearby (all to common with so many diesel cars on the road)

    3) the driver can see if the bollard is up or not, thus reducing claims against garages where someone has unwittingly driven over the spikes despite paying (due to system or operator error)

    4) with spikes, what happens if the car queueing behind accidentally drives too far fowards, or having driven forwards decides to back-up? In the case of bollard, the car behind is a barrier until the point the bollard is clear and THAT pops up and becomes the barrier.

    The spikes are a knee-jerk reaction... obviously someone who has lost earnings due to bilking will feel emotional about it and will not consider the risk of harming innocents.

  112. John Dougald McCallum

    Fuel prices et al

    [quote]The government takes about 60 pence out of every litre of petrol you buy, and BP / Shell still managed to clear a PROFIT! of over one billion pounds sterling over thirty days!

    Yep, someone's stealing off someone.

    Really need a 'rant' icon of some description.[/quote]

    BP,Shell etc also drill the wells and run the refinery's as well as produce plastics and chemicals ,thats where the money is by the way,so profits in the billoins for a six month period is not surprising poster said the real winner in all this is HMG of whatever stripe after all the hikes in fuel duty were first put in place by the Tories also think of the TAX that these companies will pay to the revnue.On the subject of spikes and one way ramps unless operated regular these will tend to get cloged up with general crap so much so that when needed they will fail to work properly,and as for being used against a bike and the resulting off depends on which tyre gets it first front and no stering,rear and no drive,I for one would not want to fall off in either circumstance if these stinger spikes ar the same as the ones that plod uses they are 100mm(4") long and about 150mm(6") apart aswell as being hollow.Second that proposal for rant tag.

  113. Mr B

    @AC @Mr B

    >Also, what you seem to fail to realise, [...] pump would be un-authorised.

    To test your theory (and my stupid ideas) I went to a petrol station to fill a jerrycan for my lawnmower, after I had parked me car on the street not seeable from the forecourt, I came on foot to the pump and filled the jerrycan ... of course I paid, but point made: It is possible, eventhough it is illegal, to fill such a container without the presence of a car. Yeah I can hear it from here if the jerrycan is more than 20 liters in capacity (because in reality I'm filling me car's tank) you'll hit the red button ... but no you won't because I could have 2 jerrycans.

    I do agree attendants are not stupid but they are employees treated like any other or "badder" so they may not care as much as you think.

    Plus I sense you have a serious sense of humor failure, I thought the 'IGMC' icon said it all. It was a silly conjecture on how to get free gas. I bet you're one of those poor buggers that spent thousands to save hundreds ... plus you'll end up sued because your device misfired and punctured someone's soles and burst their toes.

  114. david wilson


    I expect that if there was a significant number of incidents of people filling jerrycans and then running off without paying, than staff would stop letting people fill them up.

    At the moment, it's rather easier to fill up with 50+ litres in a vehicle and just drive off.

  115. Tonto Popaduopolos

    Why the fuss?

    If you are accidentally failing to pay for your petrol and you end up with four f*cked tyres then so what. Take the forecourt owners to court and see where that gets you. They will have proof that you didn't pay, you will only have your word that you forgot. It might make you remember next time.

    If you are walking over the top of said device when it activates, having ignored all the warning signs that they will have been required to place, then more fool you. You'll only do that once! Take the forecourt owners to court and see where that gets you.

    If you are a car thief ,or similar, with no intention of paying then you won't get very far. The car owner will get their car back with a full tank of fuel, the insurance will (probably) buy some new tyres and the forecourt owners will get some free publicity, dissuading any further miscreants from attempting a drive off.

    It is a win win situation if you ask me.

  116. Drivestop
    Thumb Up

    Forums are now active

    Thank you all for your comments, we have now opened our forums at, if you have any questions we will do our best to answer them

  117. Anonymous Coward

    don't waste it

    **The solution is to REDUCE THE COST OF PETROL.**

    The solution is to reduce the demand, so stop wasting it. The only way to reduce the *cost* of it is by reducing the cost of obtaining it, which is why some countries decide to invade other countries that have some of it, so that they can simply start sucking the liquid for free.

    And, as someone else said, how are you people still not using cards to pay before filling the car? It's easy: say how much you want, insert the card, type in the code, get the fuel; not one drop more. Done.

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