Bring back forecourt freebies

2013-02-04 07:50

This week (on Feb 5 2012) vehicle owners - including bikers - will have to stump up considerably more cash to fill their fuel tanks – thanks in the main to the price of North Sea crude oil reaching $116 a barrel.

(And price-fixing that is ILLEGAL in every other business in the country - a hangover from 1960's sanctions days now used to ensure tax income!)

Well, that that and the crappy dollar price we're getting for our rand. Remember when it used to be $0.75 or thereabouts to the South African buck? Yes, it was... really! Then the politicians struck - darn you Mr Botha...


According to an Automobile Association spokesman (does it still have a place in the motoring world any more?) these monthly increases (shades of Eskom, I fear) and sometimes decreases are set to continue well into 2013. Whatever, from midnight February 5 we’ll pay R11.92 minimum for a litre of unleaded.

Those who drive diesel will "only" be looking at an extra 18c/litre more - but we don't know of any diesel bikes...

Over the weekend, while working out I was going to find the extra money, it crossed my mind how down the years various petrol companies have tried to woo drivers to their forecourts with gimmicks, giveaways and clever campaigns. These days, if you ask me, they don’t really seem to care – in fact filling your costly tank to the brim doesn’t even ensure the pump jockey will offer to clean your windscreen...

When I started driving on two wheels and four it was the Esso petrol company in the UK that may well have started adding the word "fun" to fill-up time on their forecourts. “Put a tiger in your tank,” they vowed. Use their brand and you were rewarded with a miniature mock tiger’s tail that you jammed under your fuel cap and simply left there.

It was amazing how people seemed to take notice, point and smile as you drove by. Shades of the soccer World Cup...

Another UK petrol company called JET refused to support any sort of giveaways, instead preferring to offer the cheapest fuel in the land – albeit 1p (about R0.20 then) a litre cheaper – the catch was you had to put the fuel into your car yourself – an idea that soon caught on with the other brands in the early 1970's – and, rain or shine (or snow!), that's still the case today.


Meanwhile Mobil, not to be outdone here in South Africa, issued a series of four booklets in a cardboard casing called 'Cars of the World'. All you had to do was buy their petrol, pay a nominal amount and the books were yours! Written by J D Scheel and V Hancke, motoring experts of the time, these books today have become collector’s items, especially if you have the box in which they were issued.

Perhaps the best free gimmick I can recall was also found in the UK and called Green Shield stamps (such marketing is illegal in SA). Fill up your car, buy your groceries, book a holiday – you were issued with what seemed like reams and reams of these little green lick-'n'stick stamps. Paste them into a book and when you had a dozen or so filled you could take them to the Green Shield shop – found in every major town – and exchange them for goods of your choice.

Cigarettes were sold with a similar enticement.

It took quite a while for me to collect a substantial number because I ran a Fiat 500 (and a Triumph Speed Twin) and you were assured of ‘quad’ stamps on four gallons (18 litres). My problem was that the little air-cooled Fiat only had a 16-litre tank!


About to get married, and visiting one of the Green Shield Stamp shops, my intended settled on a set of green dessert bowls along with a matching fruit bowl – and we’ve still got the dessert bowls after 43 years, such was the quality!

Perhaps it’s time for our petrol companies to lighten-up on their hard-done-by customers. They charge so much for the liquid gold that I’m sure they could come up with a freebie per tank of fuel.. a Krugerrand, perhaps!

Any readers out there remember other cute, funny or otherwise strange 'forecourt freebies".?Tell us about it in the Readers' Comments section below.

  • erhard.taljaard - 2013-02-04 12:28

    gee nostalgia .....stickers ....treasures of south africa ...pink rubber galoopies those were the days my friends

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