Highway robbery - Servo owner fights back after five thefts in one weekend

WALLABADAH small business owner Ivan Hulbert is a man who’s had enough.

Having had five motorists drive off without paying for fuel from his petrol station on the weekend, he’s instituted tough new measures aimed to get the cash flowing back into his till, rather than out the driveway.

PAY BEFORE YOU FILL: 
Wallabadah Tank-N-Tummy Service Station owner Ivan 
Hulbert now wants payment before motorists fill up their tanks. 
Photo: Barry Smith 050514BSD08

PAY BEFORE YOU FILL: Wallabadah Tank-N-Tummy Service Station owner Ivan Hulbert now wants payment before motorists fill up their tanks. Photo: Barry Smith 050514BSD08

“I may as well have not opened the doors on the weekend,” he told The Leader yesterday.

“I lost $500 in fuel ... which means I worked this weekend for nothing.”

Mr Hulbert, who’s owned the Tank ‘N Tummy service station on the New England Highway at Wallabadah for the past six years, makes just $10 from every $100 of fuel he sells.

So at 5pm on Sunday he decided enough was enough and started asking customers to pay for their petrol prior to fuelling up. 

From now on, all day Saturday and Sunday and after 4pm on weekdays, people will be required to pre-pay.

The reaction from customers so far had been good, the 66-year-old said.

“People have been very supportive, saying things like ‘good on you, you couldn’t afford to keep going like this’.”

In the worst example of fuel theft on the weekend, Mr Hulbert had two utes, fully laden with freshly-chopped wood, pull in on Sunday morning and then drive off with $150 worth of stolen fuel between them.

At the time, Mr Hulbert was busy serving morning teas to a group of motorcyclists who had ridden in and by the time he checked on the utes’ progress, they’d gone.

One of the worst aspects of the fail-to-pays, he said, was that he knew they were people from the local region.

The utes with the timber wouldn’t have been driving through from the likes of Sydney, Mr Hulbert said.

He said he no longer reported fuel theft to police, either because even if he got the registration number, no money had ever been returned to him.

“I’ve got to the stage where I’ve just about had enough,” he said.

“I love the place and love the village, that’s why I’ve stayed, but it’s getting harder.

“I’d just like to tell these people to wake up to themselves. I’m not making a fortune here if that’s what they think.

“I don’t go to their house and rob them.”

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