No, I won’t take my helmet off

When I buy petrol. There are 2 really basic principles why not:

1. Legal.

When I roll up to your petrol pump and lift the handle, if you turn that petrol pump on, you are agreeing to sell me petrol. By pouring petrol into my tank, I’m agreeing to buy it.
Any condition (for example: the condition that I take off my helmet when I enter your store) which is added to a transaction after I agree to make the purchase but before I hand over my money is pretty obviously an unfair condition of sale. Under Australia’s consumer protection laws, unfair conditions are meaningless. Therefore the condition that I take off my helmet before I enter the store is unenforceable.

If you don’t turn on the petrol pump while I have my helmet on, there’s no (legal) problem. Some places do this – you lift the handle, the pump doesn’t turn on. you look inside, and the guy behind the counter makes a motion as if he’s taking off a motorbike helmet. That’s perfectly fine – I’ll just go somewhere else based on principle #2.

If you have locked doors with a button behind the counter, and you won’t let me in the store with my helmet on, then you have a real problem. Because in that event, I will invoke my right under the Australian Consumer protection laws to change my mind about the sale – I’ll suddenly decide that actually I don’t want to buy petrol from you, after all. This presents you with a problem, because now you’ll have to remove the fuel that I pumped in – and *only* the fuel that I pumped in – from my bike. Good luck with that.

2. Moral.

I’ve worked in many client-facing roles. I’ve dealt with all kinds of customers, ranging from people at home calling up because their Internet is broken, right up to corporate executives. In my many customer-facing roles, and in fact one of the first things I was ever taught in my career, is the value of customer service. As someone who has had to provide customer service for a living, I pretty much insist on it when I’m the customer. And the first thing you’ll learn when you learn customer service is not to insult your customers.

By asking me to take my helmet off, you’re accusing me of being a thief. There’s no way to dance around it, it’s a simple fact – when you ask me to take my helmet off, you are very clearly implying that I am a thief.

And guess what? I consider that an insult. And if you insult me before I’ve handed over my money, I’ll go somewhere else, pure and simple.

“Oh, but the companies need to protect themselves! if they let you walk in wearing a motorbike helmet, then they’d get robbed all the time!”

Firstly, that’s not my problem, that’s a problem for the companies. Secondly, isn’t there an entire agency, widely referred to as “the police”, who deal with that kind of thing? Surely when you hand over the CCTV footage showing the thief’s number plate, the police will do their jobs, and no customers need to be insulted?

“Oh, well, these thiefs, they don’t use number plates, or they fake them…”

See the previous question. Now the police have multiple charges they can press.

“Yeah, but, we need to prevent crime!”

Then why do you let me pump the petrol into my bike with my helmet on? Assuming I’m a thief with fake number plates, why would you give me the opportunity to fill my bike up with petrol and simply ride away?

If you’re really interested in preventing crime, then guess what? There’s a whole industry sitting out there just waiting for your call! It’s called “The Security Industry”. There are companies like Chubb who make their entire living out of just that kind of thing! These guys are professionals who take their job seriously – they can advise you on best practices and whatnot, and they’ll provide whatever kind of security you like – The Security Industry can provide all kinds of wonderful services including but not limited to having a car drive past every so often, to make sure you’re OK, or permanently stationing a security guard (or, better, more than one) on site. If you like, the guards you have on site could probably even frisk every customer as they enter and leave the store! After all, I’m sure there are thiefs out there who are slipping through the cracks in your system because they’re not motorcyclists.

What this is really about is externalities – you can’t be bothered paying somebody to help you prevent crime (which indicates to me that it’s not really such a big problem), and you’d rather insult every single motorcyclist who comes to your store. After all, we’re only a minority…

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