Monday, October 23, 2006

Shell gasoline - water instead of petrol. How Shell put me out of my misery

This is a long post. Read in your own sweet time.

Chennai city has two Shell petrol filling stations as far as I know, one on the way to Porur and the other near Jerusalem Engineering College. I tried Shell petrol for the first time last Monday. I had filled in Rs 200 worth of fuel and my bike mileage improved a bit. For all we know, Shell is a higly respected energy brand the world over and this is their foray into Chennai. My bike, a 2006 model Honda Activa ran on 3.86 liters of Shell fuel for 4 1/2 days which is good because the same amount from other brands would have lasted arund 3 1/2 days. I decided to refuel my bike, so I went to the Shell station and dumped 3 liters into the tank. This place has the typical Shell feel to it, with the bunk glowing in trademark orange and red and their customer service is not bad either. The billing is automated and they maintain records of every transaction on a pc. This bunk where I went, the one near Jerusalem Engg is located in the Pallikaranai marsh area, that gets flooded during the monsoon. Now for some reason the local franchisees for Shell decided to build one in a low lying area. This petrol bunk I am talking about did not open until two weeks ago. Now off with the yadda yadda and back to the issue.

After filling up I left and my bike stopped near Pallikaranai. Unsual, because my bike is in good condition. I decided to search for a mechanic at 8.30 pm, where people were in the middle of buying crackers for Diwali but found none so I called up my mechanic, a gem of a person and asked him to help me out.

"Yegeavudu mechanic shap irunda bika kami. Matter seriagalena sollu. (Show the bike to a mechanic in that area. Call me if things don't work out.", said Seenu, the mechanic. Pushing my bike along and cursing my luck, I found a mechanic at last.

He took a look, asked the customary questions, "Petrol potingla saar? Dry agarthukkuminadi potingala? (Did you put petrol in the bike saar? Did you refuel just before the tank went dry?)

After clarifying his doubts he told me he needed time to look at the bike since he was not used to servicing such a model. Bummer. I called Seenu who was going elsewhere for Diwali shopping, Argh.

"Mechanic shappula vettudu. Kalaila vandu edduthuko.(Leave the bike at a shop and pick it up the next day) he said.

"Chancee illinga.", No way was my response.

I called up my folks to inform them of this and decided to call Seenus bro, an auto driver so that he could tow me all the way home. My dad decided to check and called me 5 mins back saying Seenu is on the way. He decied to forgo his shopping and was on his way to help me!! Saved! Seenu came 10 mins later and started his magic on the bike. At the same time, another guy came to the shop and was getting his bike tank emptied. He had refuelled at the same Shell station for 400 bucks. There was no petrol in the tank, only water mixed with kerosene!! Apparently, water had seeped thru the holding tanks at the bunk and the Shell guys were not aware of it. This guv was pissed and called me but I was too engrossed in getting my bike fixed and go home. I asked him to go ahead.

5 minutes later, it was the same result on my bike as the other guy's. The mix. We collected some of that mixture in a bottle for evidence and rushed to the bunk where we saw a row of cars and bikes. The moment the Shell guys saw us with the evidence, they called us inside their office, explained the reasons behind the mix, told us that folks who had come top the bunk from 8.00 pm were having the same problems as ours. They reimbursed the entire amount I had spent on gas and also an extra liter free for my troubles. I had come on my mechanic's bike. Good thing I had the bille. These guys were also arranging call taxis to take the other affected customers home and offered to service the vehicles free of charge. Neat. They even offered food on the house. Nice, but one thing bothered me. One of the employees, spoke to my mechanic in a hostile tone but was calm with me and another person - we spoke in English while my mechanic spoke in the local lingo. Language bias?

That said, the guys at Shell did a good job that night:

1. They owned up to their mistake
2. Did not cause a ruckus
3. Did proper damage control
4. Provided free service to the affected customers
5. Either reimbursed the money they owed you or refuelled the tanks based on the amount that had been spent

Their justification for having a petrol bunk in a low lying area did not cut mucho ice tho'.

Will I go for Shell again? Yeah I would. Their fuel is good, customer service is ok, that can be improved and if they can prevent incidents like this from happening again, they can create a loyal customer base.

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