Gasoline Scams in Mexico..... well advised in advance, IF RESEARCHED in advance !
Continuing this series of gas station scams at the government owned Pemex — not by the government, mind you, but by the attendants who will try to supplement their day’s wages. This is the second most common Pemex scam to try to get you to part with a few extra dollars at the gas station pump.
The second most common Pemex scam is a simple one, actually. Like the upcoming third one, it depends on your unfamiliarity with local currency and that extra step of a tourist having to make conversion rates back to American dollars in his head.
This scam and the third one is based simply on giving you back the wrong change. But here is the actual presentation of this scam which you should look out for:
Let’s say that the amount of gas pumped in your vehicle comes out to 250 pesos and you give the attendant a 200 peso bill and a 100 peso bill, totaling 300 pesos. The attendant owes you 50 pesos, right? Well, instead of giving you your change as one 50 peso bill, what the attendant may do is to first give you a 5 peso coin. He is hoping that your tentativeness with Mexico’s pesos and your desire to appear like you know what you are doing, that you will mistakenly think the 5 peso is the proper change and immediately say “Gracias” and move on, perhaps even giving him that 5 peso as an extra tip. You’re supposed to get 50 pesos back but you’ve got a number 5 in your head and you may simply think that you were incorrectly thinking 50.
Now just in case you are street smart and know the difference between 5 pesos and 50 pesos, after he gives you the 5 peso, the attendant will still retrieve the additional change but at a very slow pace. He is trying to pace himself to see if you will think he gave you all of your change back already. If you don’t pocket the change, say “Gracias”, and return to your vehicle, he will continue to pull the additional two 20 peso bills, but at a snail’s pace.
The solution to not being taken by the “giving the change back slowly” Pemex scam is to simply watch the change the attendant gives you and count it carefully. Don’t let your self-consciousness about your tentativeness with Mexican currency cause you to rush through it. Don’t be embarrassed if it takes you a little extra time to count. And don’t automatically turn away from him just because he hesitates after giving you the rest of your change. Be certain he has given you all your change back. Just take your time, pay attention, and make sure it all adds up.
There is only one brand of gasoline - the government owned Pemex. Gasoline rates are higher in Mexico than in the U.S. and the stations only accept cash. They are full service stations and a few pesos tip for the attendant is appeciated. Most attendants are friendly and honest, but we have run across a few opportunists.
When gassing up your rent car at the Pemex station near Akumal in the Riviera Maya, make sure the pump is set at zero before the attendant begins pumping your gas and watch the pump while it is running in case the attendant tries to add to the final amount. It has happened to us more than once that an attendant has attemped to supplement his day wage by adding a few dollars to our purchase. Count your change before you leave the station or any business for that matter. The most common way for a scoundrel here to cheat you is confusion while handing back change.
This series of Akumal tips will cover the various scams that the gas station attendants at the Pemex — Mexico’s only gas station chain — will try to get away with to put a few extra dollars in their pocket. If you don’t watch it, if you don’t pay attention, you’ll end up paying more than you should for your tank of gas, and these gas station attendants seem to pride themselves on whether they can trick an unsuspecting tourist.
The number 1 Pemex scam
This is the number one Pemex scam. You request a certain peso amount or you have asked “llenalo”, which means “fill it up” in Spanish. The attendant will probably ask you which type of gasoline you want, the standard “Magna” or premium. He then takes the nozzle from the pump, places it in your tank, depresses the lever, and the gas starts flowing. What you didn’t notice, however, is that before you drove up, he preset the pump for 50 pesos. When he gases up your vehicle, the pump starts running from the 50 peso amount. In other words, the final amount for your gas tab will include that 50 peso amount he keyed into the pump, even though you didn’t receive any gas for that amount. It’s the number one scam of the unscrupulous Pemex gas station attendants.
Start from square zero
The solution against this standard Pemex scam is to make sure the attendant zeros out the pump. There is a lever on the side of the pump that he flips. Any peso amount displayed on the pump will then clear out and display zero. This requires when you pull up in your vehicle to beat him to the punch by getting out of your car so that you can stand near the pump and watch what is going on. Don’t let him come to your window, block you in while he asks how much gas you want, and then start pumping. Give yourself a chance to get out of your vehicle and read the display before he starts pumping. Before he starts pumping, the peso amount on the display should read zero. That’s an absolute must. If it doesn’t, call him on it.
You’ve just got past the number one Pemex scam of not zeroing out the pump. But stay alert. The gas station attendant wants to supplement his day’s pay and he has a few more tricks up his sleeve.