It wasn’t so long ago that Gas Station owners locked up for the night, put the Alarm on (if there was one) and then went home. Those were the days…
Now – the majority of Gas Stations are open 24/7 and are commonly combined with a convenience store. This means that there is much more opportunity for theft and also more risk to your employees and customers. Is your Gas Station protected?
Fill Up and Drive Off
Gasolene thefts or ‘drive-offs’ are a huge problem for stores that don’t have pre-pay facilities. If your Gas Station relies on the customer coming in to pay then you really need a method of watching your pumps.
- In 2009, the average loss per store from drive offs was $761
- In 2010, it had almost doubled to $1,440
Your Gasoline Station is most at risk if it’s in a bustling town, which sounds odd as you’d expect thieves to worry about being seen in highly populated areas. Actually, the reverse is true – because a car can speed away and quickly be safely hidden in heavy traffic.
- The average loss per store in these type of areas is $1,500 per store, per month
Can’t Pay – Won’t Pay
Gas theft is directly linked to the price. When the price rises, so does the number of thefts. If you’re a gas retailer, then you’ll know that you make very little on the sale – you probably make more profit on the sale of a take out coffee.
So if someone drives off without paying, it can easily wipe out your profit for the day – or at the very least, make a significant dent in it.
Over the years, Gas prices have risen and car tanks have got bigger. Just one theft can easily leave you $100 out of pocket.
Who is the Typical Gasoline Thief?
Theft from Gas Stations has always been a problem but the demographic has changed. Teenagers used to fill up and speed away – just for the thrill. Nowadays, gas thieves cover all ages, genders and races. The vehicles vary from beaten up near-wrecks to the latest model of SUV. This wide range of culprits makes it very difficult for a Gas Station Assistant to look out of the window and anticipate a drive off.
Gasoline theft has become big business. Theft rings are known to siphon fuel from the Gas Station storage tanks into trucks that have been specially designed and built for the purpose. When you consider that the storage tanks are underground, it’s easy to see how determined these thieves are.
In 2005, Police ended a 10 month investigation by smashing a Gas Theft ring in Florida and arrested 55 people. It’s hard to believe but the thieves simply parked their modified truck over the underground tank and filled up their 1,000 gallon truck tank – in broad daylight. It makes you wonder how many 1,000 gallon loads they got away with in those 10 months.
Why Don’t All Gas Stations Just Go Prepay?
It’s true that this would wipe out drive offs. Some towns have enacted laws to this effect and it’s now mandatory for Gas Stations to be prepay in British Columbia. However, Gas retailers keep prepay as a last resort. This is because customers usually underestimate their gas purchase so that they don’t have to go back into the store. Also, the majority of Gas Stations are now part of convenience stores and it’s obviously better for the retailer if their customer spends longer in the store as they may spend more money. Making prepay mandatory also affects the amount that Gas retailers have to pay in Credit Card fees – another undesirable side effect.
Gasoline Theft Has a Negative Impact on Your Other Consumers
- Customers who pay for their gas also end up paying for the cost of the theft. This is often because the retailer has to raise their prices to recoup the money lost to thieves.
- Most drive offs leave the Gas Station in a hurry and drive off at high speeds – creating the high risk of an accident occurring.
- The increasing incidence of Gas Theft is forcing more retailers to go prepay. It is known that customers prefer the convenience of not having to do that.
Take Away Their License!
Many states have now passed laws giving the Judge the power to take away the driver’s license of a person convicted of gasoline theft. This is obviously a great deterrent – but first, you must catch your driver. This is where good security comes into play. It’s imperative to have a security camera mounted in just the right place to allow a good screen capture of their license plate.
Once word gets round that your Gas Station has such cameras, you will see an immediate decline in drive offs.
Stop your employees in their tracks
It’s not just customers who may steal from you. Employees may give a customer an item and then pocket the cash without processing the sale through the cash register. They may also give items to friends – a form of stealing that is called ‘sweethearting’.
If a customer is paying with a credit card, the employee may furtively ‘skim’ the card through a hand held scanner before processing the sale correctly. The information taken from the customers card onto the skimmer is then sold to a third party who can make fraudulent purchases using the customer’s details.
All of this is easy to prevent by having a camera installed that has a good view of the POS. If the employee knows they are on camera, they are not going to take the risk of stealing.
Keeping Your Customers Safe
Many Gas Stations display a sign saying ‘Park at your own risk’ which is fair enough but you also want to minimize any risk of damage to property or injury to customers. Having a dedicated Security System makes customers feel safer and they will be happier to visit your Gas Station and store.