In a world of convenience and self-service, we want things done now, and mostly done ourselves. It could be you have ‘no time to talk’, or you want it ‘done the right way’. These are some of the reasons why the good ol’ full-service experience is fading away.
If you drove your car into a petrol station decades ago, more than likely you would’ve been greeted by a smiling attendant who cheerily said, ‘hello, nice day today!’, and then proceeded to fill your car up, without you even unbuckling your seat belt.
The service often-as-not included a windscreen wash, and a coolant and oil check.
It’s hard to believe all of this was at no extra cost, but what’s even more surprising is that a handful of driveway service petrol stations still exist, and we think this is pretty damn cool.
Above: Joe Di Conza (front) and his team.
On episode 52 of the CarAdvice podcast, we spoke to one business that still does this (audio interview is at the bottom of this article). Joe Di Conza owns Pat and Tina’s BP service station in Shepparton, Victoria. He took over his parents’ business, which has been running since 1973.
“When we started, everyone did driveway service around the country. In 1978 when self-service was introduced, my mother and father refused to do it. We wanted to keep the friendly driveway service in the mould, and we haven’t broken the mould because it works for us.”
This service is so rare that it can take people aback the first time they encounter it.
“We get a few shocks to start off. Some people think we are going to steal petrol and we’ve had people take photos and videos of us. They don’t believe it, and have to show their friends.”
With so many of Joe’s employees out amongst bowsers and cars every day, there are more chances of injury, but he has them covered.
“The insurance still comes under the same banner (as self-service stations). We put on our insurance that we are a full driveway service site. I pay a little bit extra for the premium to cover it, but the insurance side of it is still fine.”
In 2016 an inquiry was conducted by the Law Reform, Road and Community Safety Committee, which found fuel drive-offs were costing Victorian businesses between $17 and $20 million per year. With Joe’s servo, he doesn’t have to worry about that, with an attendant always at a bowser.
But they’re also there to give you advice.
“A lot of people who buy, for instance, European vehicles, see on the inside of their door, ‘minimum 95-octane’. A lot of people don’t understand what that means.
We say to them, ‘you really should be using premium fuel in this vehicle. Don’t put the 91 in because the computer can’t respond properly and it affects the performance of your vehicle.’
For us, it’s kind of like an up-sale, and we’re helping the customers and guiding them in the direction in what they actually should be putting in their vehicles.”
In country areas especially, it’s a great community feeling, providing a more pleasant experience. It’s where you get to know the attendant by name, and for some motorists, they would be willing to drive out of their way to support a business that goes that extra mile.
“As I say to some customers, out from the city, ‘welcome to the country’. Without being a bit biased, we’re here to help you, and provide service to you, and guide you to where you want to go. We even clean the windscreens as well.”
But some drivers don’t trust the service provided by driveway attendants.
“We’ve had people say to us, ‘you can’t touch my vehicle’. I’ve then got to explain the reason why we do the driveway service and how we employ six people, which is six families that we’re feeding as well.
“Ninety-five percent of them understand, and they turn around and say, ‘ok, I’ll let you do it’. We just can’t let you fill your car up because that’s what we do.”
To support fuel stations that still offer this wonderful service, we have compiled a list of some that you can find around Australia.
NOTE: Do you know the owner of the classic driveway photo at the top of this article? Please let us know!
Listen to the CarAdvice podcast team talk to Joe Di Conza below, and catch more like this at caradvice.com/podcast.