The culture of tipping in South Africa reaches almost every facet of our services industry – but while many don’t mind giving the ‘standard’ 10% to their waiter at a restaurant, or a spare R2 or R5 to their local car guard, it would seem petrol attendants get the short-end of the stick.
According to a recent poll run by BusinessTech, which drew over 7,300 responses, South Africans are a little bit more stingy when it comes to service people at the pumps.
When asked how much money motorists usually tip the petrol attendant when they visit a service station, the largest proportion of respondents (37%) said they don’t give anything at all.
Close behind the non-tippers are those who give R5 (34%), followed by those who give R10 (13%) and R2 (12%).
Few South African motorists are very generous, with only 4% saying they give R20 or more.
Petrol price pain
With rising petrol prices and a recession putting pressure on households, the data may not come as much of a surprise.
Recent research by Lightstone found that, as a result of economic pressures and 5 months of consecutive petrol price increases, South African motorists and logistics companies are under extreme pressure, responding by simply driving less.
This means fewer trips to the mall – impacting retail sales and the wider economy – and fewer trips to service stations. Service stations have seen a severe drop in visitor numbers in 2018 – 10% lower than a year ago, Lightstone said, pointing to June 2018 as being the worst month.
Government was forced to intervene in the latest round of fuel price increases, negating an expected 23 to 25 cents per litre increase for September through a once-off intervention that saw diesel prices stay flat, and petrol prices increase by only 5 cents per litre.
This 5 cents adjustment was to account for wage increases among service station and petroleum industry staff.
What petrol attendants earn
Petrol stations employ around 70,000 people across the country, with petrol attendants generally fitting the profile of 27 year old men, who tend to stay in the job for up to five years.
The Department of Energy and members of the motoring industry finalised the wage tables for 2018/2019 in August.
This includes the minimum wages for a number of personnel working in the fuel sector – including petrol attendants and cashiers.
Forecourt attendants earn a minimum of R1,313.55 per week (R5,250 a month), or R29.19 per hour, while cashiers earn slightly more (R1,382.40 per week).
Salary data for the industry shows that generally petrol attendants earn just above this minimum wage at R5,600 a month, going as high as R8,000 a month in some cases.
Much like other service industries, petrol attendants supplement their wages through tips. They earn these on the goodwill of motorists visiting the stations, after they perform many ‘complimentary’ services, such as washing windows, checking oil, and inflating tyres.
While government’s intervention has brought some relief, economists and analysts believe it’s a very temporary reprieve, and likely to exacerbate problems in October when the price will inevitably have to catch up to market conditions.
With petrol prices projected to go as high as R20 per litre in 2019, tipping may take a back seat as motorists continue to feel the pinch.