A reply from Exxon-Mobil

13th September 2008 – 11.56 am

I recently mentioned how Esso refused to serve me petrol unless I took off my motorcycle helmet. I was angry enough at this absurd policy that I wrote to Exxon-Mobil's head office to complain, and I got a reply. The reply stated that Exxon-Mobil take motorcycle business seriously, and that the policy to remove helmets is in place for two reasons. First, the cashier needs to check that the person buying petrol is over sixteen years of age; second, there have been a few robberies where helmets have been used to foil recognition.

I'm not quite sure how many under-sixteens try to buy petrol, but I personally ride a large supersports bike that is simply not available to anyone without a full licence. I am also not that short. I am not sure what taking off my helmet would prove that cannot be clearly seen by any reasonable person. As for robberies, I imagine that anyone wanting to rob a petrol station would not be deterred by a 'no helmet' policy. It would be amazing if robbers saw the sign and said to themselves 'wait, we're going to have to take off our helmets, they will recognise us! Let's rob some other shop'. And I doubt they would be stopped by someone asking them to take off their helmet, instead of simply robbing the place. Indeed, if a 'no helmet' policy is an effective deterrant why not instead put a 'no robbery' sign on the door? The policy to remove helmets seems startlingly like security theatre.

I can't agree with the policy. It may seem a minor inconvenience to have to remove one's helmet, but unless you wear a helmet regularly you are unlikely to recognise how much of an inconvenience it can be. I can see how convenient this argument is for me, in that I am stating that if you don't wear a helmet you can't make a valid judgement, but I believe it to be the case. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it were the cause of the absurd policy, where people who don't wear helmets underestimate the inconvenience and assume that bikers wouldn't object.

If the weather is wet then all my biking gear will be wet. Taking off my helmet cannot be done whilst wearing my gloves, so I have to take them off first. This exposes my hands, and my hands now get wet from holding wet gloves and a wet helmet. Where do I put my gear whilst I pump petrol? The ground will be wet, because of car tyres dragging water from the roads in to the station, so I am left with pumping petrol one handed, which is more awkward than it could be had I two hands free. When finished, I have to put my wet hands back in to my gloves for the rest of my journey, which leads to an unpleasant and uncomfortable ride.

And if the weather is cold my bare hands have to clasp the pump that is permanently open to the environment whilst getting petrol, and all the gear I wear to protect me from the cold is useless, unless I take off my gloves to take off my helmet to put on my gloves again to pump petrol to take them off again to put my helmet back on and finally put my gloves on again. Compare that to simply not taking them off to start with.

Regardless of the weather, the simple fact is that taking off my helmet is more inconvenient than not taking off my helmet. There is another petrol station where I can pump and pay for petrol, pop to get a takeaway from the fish and chip shop next door, and ride away all without having to take my helmet off. Given the choice, there is little question as to which petrol station I am happier to frequent, which is why I cannot believe Exxon-Mobil's statement that they take motorbike business seriously. After all, as I stated in my letter, they have lost my business as long as the policy is in effect.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed.