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Kerosene Wars

I live in an old house out in the country, with a somewhat antiquated heating system that I supplement with a kerosene space heater. (I think what we call kerosene here in the U.S. is known in the other parts of the world as paraffin.) I like this arrangement, as power outages are fairly common around here, and my kerosene supply means I’ll have heat whether or not I have electricity.

For the past six or seven winters, I’ve been getting my kerosene at a particular service station on the other side of town. I fuel up every two weeks or so, and have a nice, friendly relationship with the man who runs the place, a kindly, soft-spoken Pakistani gentleman.

Last week, I pulled up to the kerosene pump, which is off to the side of the station lot. There was a car parked there, but no one in it, or pumping fuel, or anywhere in sight. I got my two jerrycans out of the trunk and began filling the first. At this point, a young woman came charging out of the office, shouting. She was hauling a small boy along by the hand. I didn’t pay much attention until, a few seconds later, it became apparent that I was the object of her tirade. She stopped in front of me, shouting, “I pre-paid! What the hell do you think you’re doing? Get away from there!”

“Oh!” I said. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize someone was using this pump.” I had already pumped about eight dollars worth of fuel. She kept shouting, saying that I was stealing her gas. I said, “Look, why don’t I finish with this can, then you can go ahead and get what you need.” My manner was calm and polite. I explained, when I could get a word in, that I’d been getting kerosene here for years and never been asked to pre-pay. I apologized again, and suggested we sort it out in the office, but that I didn’t want to leave an open container of flammable liquid sitting out in the open. The young woman continued to shout at me, though, and said that not only was I stealing her stuff, I was copping an attitude, and I was an A-word, and a B-word, and a C-You-Next-Tuesday word. And the other A-word that’s a little longer and more offensive than the first A-word.

I stopped pumping and just stared at her. “Excuse me?” I said. The girl wanted to know what I thought I was doing, didn’t I see her car parked right there? I think it was at this point that I realized that nothing I could say would satisfy her, that anything I did say would only escalate the situation. So I went back to pumping the gas. She pulled out her phone and asked me how I would like it if she called the police. I stopped pumping again and looked at her. “Miss,” I said, “You’re calling me a thief and cursing at me. I have nothing to say to you. Call the police if you want. I’ll be done here in a few minutes, then I’ll go inside to pay. You do what you think best.” The little boy had begun crying. I turned away from her and resumed pumping. She kept on shouting, and now was yelling at her child, too. I turned back to her, held up my hand, and said, “Miss, we’re done. Do whatever you want.”

She went storming back to the office, the wailing boy in tow. I finished pumping my kerosene, loaded the cans back into the trunk, and went to the office, as well. She was regaling the other customers and the teenage cashier (the Pakistani gentleman was not there, unfortunately) about my outrageous behavior. I continued to ignore her, paid for my kerosene and left. The whole affair had taken less than five minutes.

It was a distressing incident. I felt very embarrassed, and I wished the regular owner had been there. I lead a quiet, relatively conflict-free life, and I’m not accustomed to having curses hurled at me at top volume. I don’t as a rule invite quarrel and disputation, and if something does arise, I’m far more likely to quit the field of battle than to engage. I realize my responsibility for what went down, but it was basically just a misunderstanding, a situation that could have been easily resolved without all the amperage and high drama. I’m not sure how else I could have handled it. It’s not likely I’ll ever see this young harridan again, anyway, so that’s fine. But the whole business left a really bad taste in my mouth. 0313-13

I reread your story a few times and it appears that you initially committed yourself to only fill one gas can upon hearing that someone else had prepaid for the gas but when the conversation did not go well, you continued to keep pumping until both cans were full and you put them back in your truck.    I’m rather flabbergasted you continued to pump kerosene into 2 gas cans even after knowing the other woman had already prepaid for the kerosene you were now pumping without any indication to her of stopping.

And just because you have never prepaid for kerosene does not mean that every other client of the service station also purchases their kerosene in the exact same way.    I, for example, always prepay when buying gas to go into gas cans for the simple reason that the pumps are strong and if I prepay, the operator sets the pump to only give me XX amount of gas so that I do not overfill the can by accident.     The other woman clearly did prepay for her own kerosene and if the station operates like the ones where I live do, you were pumping your gas on her dime.

What to say when she came barreling out of the station office?  Immediately stop pumping kerosene and say,   “Oh, I am so sorry!  I’ve been buying kerosene here for years and just assumed the pump was available as usual.”  Promptly put the cap on your not full can while saying, “Let me go fix this right away with the station operator so that you can get the kerosene you paid for.”   Go directly to station office and you take the initiative to resolve the problem.  “I seem to have made a mistake and started pumping my kerosene like I usually do and did not realize this woman had prepaid and was ahead of me.  Can you please fix this?  I pumped $8 worth of kerosene.”     Then wait your turn after her to get your kerosene since she was there first and she had prepaid before you.     This situation got totally out of control because 1) you had somewhat of an entitled attitude to getting your usual allotment of kerosene as you normally did; 2) your comments to her were like throwing kerosene on a fire…pun intended. You kept explaining your actions and saying nothing that actually assuaged the other woman’s belief that you usurped her position for gas and was taking something that belonged to her; 3) she controlled the entire situation when you had the means to stop the drama or at least nullify it with dignity.   Was sticking to your guns and getting every drop of your bi weekly kerosene pumped into your two jerry cans before you addressed her grievances worth the drama?


{ 105 comments… add one }
  • InNM March 20, 2013, 3:05 am

    Having less than a year’s worth of pumping my own gas, I may comment as an inexperienced person. When I prepay for gas, the gas terminal’s scope actually changes once the prepay instruction is put into the system. It could be that this kerosene system is analog, and didn’t have the change register on the screen, or it could be you were oblivious to it.
    On the other hand, the admin is correct. At any point you could have offered to financially rectify the situation by FIRST stopping your fueling, closing the cap, and dealing with the situation with the staff immediately. If I was the lady who prepaid and you kept “explaining” to me about why you’re filling your gas tanks on my dime, I would be irate as well. Gas is expensive (I’ve been told that in Europe, it is about £10/liter. Granted, cussing and screaming were not the most effective tactics to use, but that is apparently the woman’s fight style when angered. I hope you use this as a learning experience.

  • Marozia March 20, 2013, 4:32 am

    OP should have stopped pumping kero instantly, apologised profusely, paid, and left, keeping her dignity intact. Then again, yelling at a person making an innocent mistake is also vulgar. I’m sure both women could’ve worked this out in an adult manner, considering one had a small boy with her. I wonder what lesson he learned that day?
    Going inside to pre-pay for gas seems odd to me. Here in Perth, an amount can be pre-set on the bowser, pump your fuel, pay and away. It stops confusing situations like this.

  • Bint March 20, 2013, 5:13 am

    Totally agree with Admin. Why on earth did you not stop, put the cap back on the jerrycan and sort it out? What exactly did you think you were doing? What did you think a car at that pump was doing? You clearly didn’t even look to see if she was in the office, which is a pretty obvious supposition.

    No, you just went right in there with a self-centred attitude that’s pretty astonishing. First you assume that pump is free when there’s HER CAR parked right there, without bothering to check. Then you just help yourself. And then, when she TELLS you it’s her pump, you don’t even stop. You even have the arrogance to decide that nothing you could do would help, and to look her in the eye being oh-so-calm as you keep on pumping the fuel when you KNOW that she is ahead of you in the queue and you’re keeping her waiting even longer.

    I can’t excuse her screaming and bad language, but I’d have been livid in her place. Your assumption of superiority here is just unbelievable. Darned right she’s calling you a thief. So far, SHE is the one paying for that fuel you’re so happily pumping as she’s forced to wait with her child. She’s the one being made to stand there as a stranger takes her place and won’t stop even when she’s pointed out their wrongdoing. You’re stealing her fuel, you’re stealing her place, and you haven’t got the manners to stop at once, apologise and get away from there.

    And it’s not polite to say ‘why don’t I finish with this can’? No, why don’t you STOP and give her her place back immediately? How can you possibly think that queue jumping and then keeping her waiting ‘for a few minutes’ on a pump she’s still paying for is ok? What proof does she have that you’ll pay for the fuel when it’s going on her card with every pump you make?

    You treated her like a silly little girl you could walk over and that made her worse. And would you have done this had she not been a mother, but a very angry, large man? Because somehow I doubt it.

  • Lychii March 20, 2013, 5:30 am

    When someone is parked in front of a pump, the logical assumption is they went inside to pay, pre-pay or get help with their gas needs. So you wait your turn.

  • Marie March 20, 2013, 6:06 am

    While I think it is good the OP is able to keep her cool, it is clear he/she was in the wrong. I personally can’t image why you would start using a pump when there is a car parked next to it. Those spaces are not parking spaces, they are meant for cars to park when using the pump. Where I come from there is no such thing as paying in advance for gas/kerosene, but I would at least wait a few minutes or check inside if someone was using the pump or intended to use it (and maybe asking for assistance).
    – Please correct me if I’m wrong here, and the car was parked in a regular parking space and the woman intended to use jerrycans as well.

    The second mistake was, as Admin pointed out, keeping on using the pump after it was clear OP made a mistake. OP should have stopped, closed the lid, and immediately admitted to a mistake while offering to reimburse the lady. It would have been easily solved if OP walked into the office, paid the 8 dollars, and then let the lady fill up her tank before filling up the rest of the jerrycans.
    The lady might have still been (rightfully) angry and (ungracefully) be shouting, but the bad manners would have been on her and not on OP.

  • Margo March 20, 2013, 6:06 am

    I’m not sure I fully agree with admin’s comments on this one – “You kept explaining your actions and saying nothing that actually assuaged the other woman’s belief that you usurped her position for gas and was taking something that belonged to her” – as I read it, one of the first things OP did was to suggest that they sort it out in the office – i.e. she would pay for the kerosene she had pumped.

    However I agree that you should have stopped pumping as soon as you knew that she had pre-paid and then to go immediately into the office to pay. Accidentally using a pump is a genuine mistake, and you were not to blame at that point – continuing to pump when you knew someone else had paid for that kerosene – you were absolutely in the wrong at that point. You would only have been OK to do that if the woman who had pre-paid had agreed that she was happy for you to take the kerosene and then pay her back.

    I don’t fully understand that issue about leaving an open container – was there any reason you couldn’t stop pumping, put the lid on your container and put it into your trunk, then go inside? Or (If you had cash on you) immediately stop and give her $8 for the kerosene you’d already taken.

    It’s understandable that she would be angry as from her perspective you were stealing the kerosene she had already paid for, and I don’t think that shouting at a thief is rude. She had no way of knowing that you had made a genuine mistake.

    I agree with admin that continuing to fill your container was provocative and rude. You should have stopped pumping as soon as the woman told you she had pre-paid, and then either apologised (which it appears you did) and immediately paid, either to the lady directly, or to the shop (which it apppears you didn’t)

    I agree that she was rude in continuing to shout and be abusive after you had apologised, but I can’t help thinking that if your response had been to **immediately** stop pumping, say “I’m so sorry, I had no idea, I’ve never seen anyone pre-pay for this pump, I’ll go inside and pay for what I’ve used, unless you’d rather I just gave you $8 cash” then you might well have found that she became a lot calmer.

    And if that was was you’d done and she didn’t calm down, then the appropriate response would be for you to close your can, then go into the shop, pay, and wait your turn to finish filling your cans.

  • Ruby March 20, 2013, 6:16 am

    I agree with Admin on this. You should have stopped pumping, put the lid on your container, and walked into the gas station to fix the problem. 1) How could that lady be sure you wouldn’t drive off after filling your cans? 2) Why did you feel the right to delay her further by filling your cans and putting them in your trunk?

  • Ally March 20, 2013, 6:32 am

    I agree with the admin. The woman who had paid for her gas already had no idea if you were going to repay her for the gas she had paid for. Your comments weren’t going to assuage her – scammers pull stunts like this all the time. You were expecting a complete stranger to trust you on your word while you did nothing to actually fix it and were continuing to take her money.

  • The Elf March 20, 2013, 6:38 am

    Yeah, the cursing was too much. That said, if I were the pre-paid client, my first words probably would have been “Hey! WTF are you doing?!” If those pumps work like the ones I know, you just pumped $8 worth of HER kerosene, and she was understandably angry about it.

    Cursing or not, you should have stopped immediately, apologized for the mistake, and said you’d straighten it out at the office. I doubt that would have mollified her – it sounds like she was on a real tear – but nevertheless that is what you should have done. Continuing to pump just made everything worse.

    On last thing…… It would have behooved the pre-pay client to have left her empty can by the pump or parked her car there or something to show “I’m next”.

  • The Elf March 20, 2013, 6:40 am

    Just realized there was a car parked there. That’s pretty much universal for “I’m using this.”

  • Lo March 20, 2013, 7:09 am

    What should have happened:

    Woman: “I pre-paid! What the hell do you think you’re doing? Get away from there!”

    OP: “Ma’am, I’m sorry, I’m not stealing your gas. I did not realize this pump was spoken for. Here you can see I’ve taken about $8 worth. Why don’t we go inside right now and work this out with the cashier.”


    Yeah, you were calm and polite in the face of a crazy raging woman. But you’re a calm and polite kerosene-thief.

    OP, are you nuts? Even if you somehow missed the fact that a car in front of a spot was saving that pump, what did you think was going on with this woman? Did you think she just randomly showed up to harass you? Did it not occur to you that you were doing exactly what she was very-impolitely accusing you of? Why didn’t you stop filling??

  • LJ Briar March 20, 2013, 7:11 am

    I agree with pretty much everyone here. I don’t understand why you didn’t at least sit and wait to see if someone came out and used the pump when you saw there was a car parked right in front of it. Yes, we’ve all read this site enough to know there’s a possibility that someone was being a jerk and just blocking the kerosene pump for fun, but it would be pretty arrogant to just assume that without evidence.

  • AnaLuisa March 20, 2013, 7:14 am

    I strongly disagree with Admin (with all due respect).

    Although the OP might have technically been in the wrong, the other woman did not do the best thing (to put it mildly) to correct the situation.

    Who of us would maintain our poise if another person was screaming vulgarities at us? I consider myself to be quite a polite and civilized person, yet I know I would probably not.

    I think there definitely is a lesson to be learned, but rather by the screaming lady. Perhaps that a spoonful of honey is better than a barrel of vinegar, and if I am outright aggressive, I cannot expect people to oblige, even those who normally would.

    I think many comments were unnecessarily harsh on OP. My heart goes out to her.

  • jch March 20, 2013, 7:15 am

    Was the OP at the regular self-serve gas pump? The way it read to me is that she was at the kerosene pump, which was “off to the side.”
    In my area, we have some gas stations that provide propane, and those pumps are away from the gas pumps, generally to the side of or set back from the gas station building. Often, there are cars parked near it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean someone is using it Maybe this is the same type of set up?
    If so, I would give the OP a little bit of understanding here, as it is not the same as walking up to a gas pump someone is parked in front of and merely taking over the pump.
    That said, I have to agree with those who said that the OP should have stopped filling immediately when the woman came out ranting. Whether right or wrong, there was clearly an issue that needed to be addressed and continuing to allow the behavior to escalate by insisting on doing what you wanted to do was not a good idea. Personally, these days, I take no chances with volatile people — one never knows what will happen next, and I would be very concerned by someone who would behave that way in front of their own child — to me, that is a clue that there is no self-control whatsoever and I wouldn’t want to incite her further.
    And beyond that, of course, it is simply wrong to continue once you know you have “cut in line.” Being a “regular” at the gas station doesn’t give you that right, and this is a lesson most of us learned in the lunch line during grade school. Lesson learned, I’m sure.

  • hakayama March 20, 2013, 7:51 am

    You have my sympathy, LW. The young mother at the pump? I know the type. I’ve seen the behavior. Nothing, absolutely NOTHING, the LW might have done would have stopped the language, the anger. The young mother needed ANY excuse to let her anger explode.
    Even if you have done exactly what some posters suggested, it would not have stopped the virago’s flood of fury.
    I am very sure that if someone were to attempt handing her a fistful of large denomination notes, she still would continue with the barrage of obscenities. Her “mission” of the moment was not to settle the dispute, misunderstanding, wrongdoing, or whatever term applies to the scene. She was intent on doing what she had done…
    There’s a good chance that, on a different day, the same “provocation” if you will, would not even start to ruffle her feathers. She’d probably be making jokes about reserving pumps, claiming lands, etc.
    This situation is not about manners. It is about character flaws and mental illness. And, according to statistics, some sort of imbalance of different type and severity affects about 20% of the population.
    To put it in everyday practical terms, there’s a good chance that one in every 5 people we deal with at the pump, work, classroom, club or family is “OFF” in one way or another.

    P.S.: LW, Please look into a Monitor or a Toyo. They vent to the outside. The initial cost is higher, but there’s no fear of an “ultimate price”.

  • JWH March 20, 2013, 8:01 am

    I come down (barely) on the OP’s side here. When somebody is screaming profanity the way this woman was, there really is no way to rectify the situation. No, OP should not have usurped the woman’s place at the pump. But there really is no way to deal rationally with a crazy person.

  • Athersgeo March 20, 2013, 8:03 am

    @InNM while gas is expensive in Europe, it’s not THAT expensive!

    A litre is £1.35-£1.40 (at least, that’s the range in my area) and was showing up as roughly €1.35=€1.40 in Malta last week (which makes it fractionally cheaper than in the UK, but not enough to go wild over).

  • Valerie March 20, 2013, 8:05 am

    None of the commenters buy kerosene, I can tell. Neither does the Admin. The kerosene pump is always off to the side, and plenty of people park there who aren’t buying kerosene – to get air, use the restroom, or go inside to shop.

    So there is NO reason to assume that a person parked there is intending to pump kerosene.

    What would I have done if I had come out from paying to find someone pumping? Turned around and gone back to the cashier, and said, “Someone else is pumping now. Can you start mine next?”

    Rushing out screaming and cursing is totally uncalled-for. And useless, too. It doesn’t make people want to cooperate, does it?

    • admin March 21, 2013, 5:00 am

      What an interesting assumption about my experiences pumping kerosene.

  • Bint March 20, 2013, 8:11 am

    Hakayama, how on earth do you know any of this based simply on a woman who saw someone stealing the fuel she’d paid for, and angrily reacted when that person refused to stop stealing it?

    The idea this is mental illness, or that she’d do the same if handed money, is a) ridiculous and b) offensive to people who are mentally ill, as we’ve had pointed out several times on this board.

    If I saw someone nicking my paraffin who then wouldn’t stop when told, I’d be screaming blue murder as well, not least for this OP’s jaw-dropping and oh-so-patronizing self-righteousness.

  • Emmy March 20, 2013, 8:12 am

    I do think the OP should have also stopped pumping, put the lid on the container and put it away, then went in to resolve the problem (or simply handed the woman some cash for the kerosene she pumped). The woman sounded like a raving lunatic and it is hard to say if even that would appease her, but the OP would have been doing the right thing by solving the problem quickly and giving the woman her rightful place in line. If the woman continued ranting after the problem had been solved, the OP should ignore the crazy. As others have pointed out, the woman had no way of knowing whether the OP would actually reimburse her and the OP took her spot in line to fill up both cans, making her and her child wait. I do admire the OP for being calm in such a situation, but I do think she should have done more to resolve her mistake. I also think the OP should have waited a minute or two before pumping the kerosene.

  • Pegg March 20, 2013, 8:29 am

    Where I live (Ohio- USA), you have to pre-pay. Either by going inside (cash or card). Or by putting your card in the reader outside. (Don’t have to decide exact amount. Pump as much or little of gas you want and it totals after your done.) This comes from gas being expensive and people would basically steal by pumping and then running.

    The car parked in front of the pumps (even in busy lot where they might have just parked there to run in to get their lottery tickets) would have kept me from automatically starting to fill a gas can. I would have (even being real busy inside the station) either waited to see if anyone came out to fill their can or actually walk into the station and do a general whole store question.

    So yeah, OP should have stopped as soon as 2nd woman came out and said, “That gas is prepaid”. Oh dear the OP might actually have to wait a whole 5 minutes later to get the gas.

    (I’m using “gas” for the general term for fuel. Could be Kerosine, diesel fuel or regular gas.)

  • WildIrishRose March 20, 2013, 8:32 am

    I’ve never pumped kerosene so I’m not sure how that works, but I’m accustomed to paying for gas before pumping it. It’s done that way to prevent people from stealing fuel. It doesn’t surprise me that kerosene would work the same way.

    I agree with admin. You should have fallen all over yourself apologizing, offered to reimburse her for the gas you had pumped, and let her finish up her transaction. A car parked next to a pump pretty much indicates that the pump is or very shortly will be in use.

  • SFL March 20, 2013, 8:33 am

    I wonder if the LW would have acted more in line with what most posters thought she should have done if the woman whose gas everyone seems to think she was stealing had not started slinging foul language right out of the gate. I imagine I would less inclined to think the situation through if someone was calling me “an A-word, and a B-word, and a C-You-Next-Tuesday word.”

    LW, you have my sympathy as well, and I hope you never have to see that shrew again.

  • Redneck Gravy March 20, 2013, 8:39 am

    There is no excuse for the continued name calling once the OP had explained the situation. I agree she should have stopped filling immediately and gone inside to straighten the situation out.

    I might have been tempted to finish the one can before going in. No one deserves the nasty abusive name calling some people think is acceptable and in front of a young child – NO.

    Had this been me I probably would have gone inside before filling the cans just to see if the car parked near the pump was inside pre-paying. Then again, I trade at a busy convenience store with a sandwich shop inside and frequently while waiting in line at the pump I will discover that the owner of the vehicle parked in front of me is just getting a sandwich and not even buying fuel, so on any given day I might start pumping first also. It should have just been a simple misunderstanding that could have easily been straightened out but both parties contributed to the drama.

  • Huh March 20, 2013, 8:50 am

    As I have told my kids before, “Yes, you were wronged, but your outrageous and over-the-top reaction to it has completely overwhelmed the original offense.” No one really comes off looking all that great in this situation, but I think the cussing lady comes off looking even worse. Yes, she was wronged, but her reaction was completely and totally over the top.

    The OP was at least very thoughtless and should have at least stopped what they were doing and fixed it with the office before continuing on to fill up. I’m not sure if she paid with cash or credit, but I certainly wouldn’t be happy if I had prepaid with a credit card and the OP is happily going along, charging things on my account.

    BUT why didn’t the original customer, as soon as she saw it happening, turn right around and TELL THE CLERK? Hey, I just pre-paid and now someone else is filling up! Never having filled propane up before, don’t they have to switch on the pump? If so, the clerk can switch it off or give her the cash back, void the transaction, whatever. And why is she dragging her young child into an escalating situation? Confrontations like that could easily become violent, especially the way she’s amping it up, so bringing a kid into it is just poor judgment.

    Plus, using the C-word is pretty much grounds for sending someone to ehell (at least to me anyway,) so she completely nuked any sympathy I had for her at that moment.

  • Ergala March 20, 2013, 9:02 am

    I am on the line. I see where the woman who pre-paid is coming from, I also see where the LWer is coming from. I’ve seen people park right in front of pumps before while they went in and shopped around. They weren’t pumping, they simply parked there.

    I can also see why she didn’t stop pumping, if someone came screaming at me like that I’d want to finish up as fast as I could and get the heck out of there! I wouldn’t want to leave my vehicle either in case the angry party was going to vandalize it. She should have allowed the woman to call the police and immediately gotten someone from the office out there to help. If she offered the woman the money to pay for the kerosene she took and the woman continued to scream at her….well…I doubt the police are going to take the angry woman seriously at all. I’ve seen it before and usually the police pull the other party aside, work with them and let them go after the situation was rectified while the angry party continued to scream and shout and is almost arrested for disorderly conduct.

  • InNM March 20, 2013, 9:35 am

    @Athersgeo, my apologies, I think I have my foot in my mouth. Feel free to laugh at me, I am.
    @hamayama, many of us, including the admin suggested that the OP close the cap, and go to the gas station staff and have them deal with it. The gas station staff could be the neutral third party needed to resolve the situation or they could make the judgement call and call the police because the woman is a danger at a gas station. Crazy woman or no crazy woman; if there is a dispute, that’s the best thing to do.
    I am curious to know why the OP would prefer to have the owner there. Is it that the OP thought that, as a regular, the owner would take his/her side and put the mother in her place?

  • Allie March 20, 2013, 9:57 am

    The poster did nothing wrong. The other party aproached this situation unreasonably right from the beginning by charging out of the office shouting. Had she come out and said “excuse me, I just prepaid for the gas on this pump,” then I would agree the poster should immediately have stopped pumping fuel and stepped back. Instead, the other party started shouting right from the first instance; that would have got my back up and I would have continued pumping as well. It’s not okay to turn a simple, everyday situation into a major drama. Her poor child.

  • medowynd March 20, 2013, 10:08 am

    I can see where the OP is coming from. The woman is screaming at her and nothing the OP says calms her down. I would have continued to pump for two reasons, the yelling and obscene language and the opportunity for the screamer to damage the OP’s vehicle or otherwise prevent the OP from pumping the kerosene. The screamer did not call the police, did not make any attempt to get help to stop someone she thought was a thief.

    The OP was better off finishing, paying and getting out of there.

  • Mrs. Lovett March 20, 2013, 10:11 am

    While I agree with most previous posters in that the OP’s actions were incorrect, I want to admire her calmness. However, at the same time, I know that if someone is behaving in a way that is injurious to me and continues to do so while acting calm and smug (not sure if OP was acting smug at the time, but the letter comes off as rather self-righteous, so it’s a possibility), it can be absolutely maddening. While the mother’s behavior was over-the-top, your refusal to even consider her side of things was entirely unfair.

  • Wendy B. March 20, 2013, 10:19 am

    Parking in front of the kerosene pump isn’t necessarily an indication of intention to use. If the station was crowded, it could have been the only space open.

    Having said that, I agree that once the woman stormed out, stopping would have been the best bet. I don’t understand why you thought you’d have to leave an open can of fuel out while resolving…put the cap on, then proceed to either pay her or go in and pay the attendant. While it was an easy mistake to make (see my first comment) when she came out, profuse apologies were in order…even if you don’t think you did anything wrong. So, you’ll have to wait a bit longer to get your kerosene…a wait is better than a scene.

    One thing I wondered, though…why didn’t the other woman just go ahead and call the police? Not that I think the incident was criminal, but why make a threat if you’re not prepared to carry it out?

  • Abby March 20, 2013, 10:20 am

    I will give the OP the benefit of the doubt that while a car was parked there, based on the set up of the store she did not think the owner of the car was using the kerosene pump. Maybe the car was parked a little bit closer to a different pump or something.

    However, this is what I understand from pre paying. That pump is set to shut off after X amount of money. There would be nothing stopping the OP from continuing to fill up the tank, and then, instead of going to the office like she said she would, running off to her car, speeding away, and leaving the woman who paid trying to explain the phantom customer who stole her gas. I don’t blame the woman for being agitated. Also, she was first in line. The OP cut in line, used the gas the other woman paid for, and basically said, it’s cool, I’ll pay when I’m done, we’ll figure it out. The other woman had nothing but OP’s word that she would fix the situation, and she had to wait around while OP finished filling up her cans.

    While you could make the argument the yelling and the profanity didn’t help, OP you were so far out of line and the fact that you don’t feel you did anything wrong is appalling. It was a stretch to ask the woman to wait for you, and when it was clear she wasn’t cool with that, you should have stopped. You were in the wrong in that you were technically stealing. I understand you had plans to rectify that, but at the moment, you were stealing. She didn’t know you were going to pay.

  • Kovitlac March 20, 2013, 10:23 am

    Everyone seems to be assuming that a kerosene pump is the same thing as a gas pump, and keeps track of the amount being pumped and the price. Now, I’ve never used a kerosene pump before, but that got me looking for more information (and a few photos).

    A large amount of pumps that I found have no meters on them. You pump what you need and go inside to weigh and pay. If that was the case here, the OP never stole anything from the crazy lady, and was never in any danger of doing so. The lady might have seen the OP as budging in line, but when there’s nothing but an empty car in the lot, I don’t see how there was any line to budge in. The woman paid for $XX amount of kerosene, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be THAT kerosene right there.

    Everyone, including the admin, seems to be jumping to conclusions. It’d be nice if the OP verified how the pump worked.

  • Nikki March 20, 2013, 10:23 am

    The other woman thought LW was stealing her gas. I would have been angry too, and cannot honestly admit that I wouldn’t have been saying regrettably offensive things to someone I viewed as a rather brazen thief.
    All could have been avoided if LW had simply waited for his/her turn.
    All would have been better if LW had stopped pumping immediately, apologized profusely, and reimbursed the woman right away for the money spent.

    Seeing as to how LW could have easily avoided the situation, and maybe could have appeased the woman, I place the majority of the blame squarely on LW’s shoulders.

  • Jewel March 20, 2013, 10:38 am

    I can picture the situation and the type of pump that the station utilizes to dispense kerosene. It sounds to me like the young woman was inexperienced with the process since pre-paying isn’t even required. She mistakenly thought that her pre-pay only applies to the NEXT few gallons of kerosene. With more experience using the kerosene pump, she likely would have realized that she could get apply her pre-pay to ANY gallons she got (up to the limit she pre-paid) and not necessarily the NEXT gallons and not have gotten so irate.

    However, since she was acting irrationally, the OP should have stopped pumping. Once the woman was calm, the OP may have been able to successfully explain how the process works. Ignoring the woman amped up her “frenzy” and resolved nothing. As we always say, “Don’t Engage the Crazy”.

  • Keller March 20, 2013, 10:55 am

    I agree with Admin on this one. Sorry, but you could have handled this better. (Although the woman’s language sounds horrid). I am also wondering if you did actually steal from her. You say you went in and paid for the kerosene-did you pay for all of it or was the money the woman already prepaid taken out of your total?

  • Shoegal March 20, 2013, 11:06 am

    The fact the car was parked right in front of the pump would have stopped me immediately. But there are a couple of other factors that contribute to my reaction to this story:

    1. It doesn’t sound as if it is a typcial filling station – it sounds like it is in the country and doesn’t necessarily follow the pre pay procedure a lot of other places use.
    2. The fact that every other time the OP pumped the kerosene he didn’t prepay. The Op believed this what everyone else did – so was under the impression that the person at the car had already filled up their cans and were in there paying. So he started to fill his cans.

    Ok – the OP assumed incorrectly. The young mother – came out of the building screaming obscentities. She should be ashamed for using that foul language and for using it in front of her son. She is no lady. After the OP said he made a mistake and explained why he had assumed the pump was not in use – she continued to scream and I think became unreasonable. Why all the screaming – and the swearing? Once he said he made a mistake – she should have listened and been somewhat appeased.

    Yes – I agree – the OP should have stopped pumping the fuel right then and there but then again he also assumed that it wouldn’t be such a horrible, terrible thing to just finish up that container and it wouldn’t have been if she would have listened once he acknowledged his mistake. Obviously, this woman was beyond reason – and wasn’t going to listen. She was intent on making a huge fuss about it.

    In my estimation – Yes the OP made some mistakes in the situation. The biggest one was filling up that 2nd container but that woman is not entirely in the clear here.

  • Ashley March 20, 2013, 11:12 am

    I’m sort of torn on this situation, as I used to work at a gas station. A car being near a pump is NOT an indication that the pump is being used. We even had a kerosene pump off to the side. People parked willy nilly all the time. If all the spaces for people NOT pumping gas and just buying snacks were being used, people would park near a pump as if they were buying gas, run in, buy their snacks, and then leave. So yes, I can see why the OP would have thought no one was using the pump because it DOES happen that people park near pumps if they aren’t actually using them.

    BUT! I do agree with admin that the second the mistake was realized, the pump should have been stopped and the problem should have been sorted right then and there, rather than continuing to fill the can.

  • ACR March 20, 2013, 11:22 am

    I agree with the poster who said that the OP is the one in the wrong here. Yes, the woman should not have yelled – but the OP’s offenses came first and continued. You assumed that a pump with a car parked in front of it was free. Why did you assume that? You continued to pump fuel after this woman said she had prepaid. When you continued to do that, what choice did she have but to assume you were a thief?

    And you filled TWO cans?! That is just breathtakingly rude and entitled.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith March 20, 2013, 11:35 am

    No. The lady in question was so far out of line that the original concern of her having her place usurped in line is completely nullified by her outrageous response. Profanity in front of a child, directed to a stranger, and we are to excuse this because she prepaid for some gas. OP was wrong, entirely wrong, for usurping her place in line. The vehicle parked there is an indicator of place in terms of being served. At a minimum he needed to duck into the office to inquire if the pump was free. But the response to his error is entirely, solely, and wholly the responsibility of the pseudo-adult who lacks self-control to such an extent that she is willing to engage in outrageous conduct. The “drama” is wholly, solely, and justly her own. (Not the complaint, which she had every right to make, and even to emphasize, but the drama.) THIS is how people who are offended, male and female, find themselves hauled off to court, dropped from their social circle, and worse, when they were originally in the right. The idea that you are going to “make” someone stop pumping gas, stop talking on their cell phone, stop allowing their child to interrupt your romantic dinner or any of a host of nuisances encountered in the daily round leads to this sort of excess. You can be assertive, even emphatic, without being outrageously profane and verbally aggressive. She should have taken her complaint to the store at once or called the police if she felt that to be her only recourse. Anything rather than needlessly escalating a situation where no danger was posed to her or her child.

  • hakayama March 20, 2013, 11:59 am

    @Bint: You have failed to notice that I have not made derogatory statements about mental/emotional imbalances. Not even ONE adjective. Nary a hint of expletives.
    What leads me to venture opinions about reasons for the young mother’s behavior are observations and many encounters with volatile individuals. In my case, some of those individuals were/are quite dear to me: my students, my friendly neighbors, my blood relatives…
    Y’know, I tend to compare what I see to what I read. Rather extensively I’d say. And with a lot of feeling. I certainly do hope that you’ve noticed that I did not diagnose either. Just suggested reasonable connections.
    Please re-read my original statement slowly and carefully. Take it to a third party for evaluation. Maybe you will find someone willing to read the OP and my short passage… someone who will be more detached and more objective.

  • just4kicks March 20, 2013, 12:09 pm

    Wow. Isn’t the OP a special snowflake??? How rude and arrogant to not only jump in front of her, but to continue filling their two containers worth of kerosene. I’d be mad as a wet hen, too! The woman who prepaid had no way of knowing that OP wouldn’t fill her cans and just leave.

  • Brian March 20, 2013, 12:09 pm

    Now I live in a place where not a lot of people use kerosene, and I’ve seen plenty of people use the kerosene station as an additional parking spot, so I can understand the misunderstanding. That being said, you were filling up your can with that woman’s money. You should have stopped immediately and seen the clerk. For all she knew, you could have just driven off afterward.

  • Wow March 20, 2013, 12:30 pm

    The only time I’ve ever encountered something like this is when I pulled into a gas station where all the pumps were empty. There were several cars in the lot, so I pulled into a pump and an irate man came running out yelling he just pre-paid for that pump. I looked over at the pump and indeed he had, as I was getting in my car, I asked why he had not parked at the pump, he just looked at me like I had 8 heads.

  • LovleAnjel March 20, 2013, 12:36 pm

    Please note, the woman did not start using foul language until AFTER the OP failed to respond appropriately:

    “I said, “Look, why don’t I finish with this can, then you can go ahead and get what you need.” My manner was calm and polite. I explained, when I could get a word in, that I’d been getting kerosene here for years and never been asked to pre-pay…..said that not only was I stealing her stuff, I was copping an attitude, and I was an A-word, and a B-word, and a C-You-Next-Tuesday word. And the other A-word that’s a little longer and more offensive than the first A-word.”

    The woman came out rightfully upset, told this person she had pre-paid, and the person CONTINUED TO STEAL HER GAS all the while explaining why this woman shouldn’t be upset about it. That is why the explicit words appeared. The woman didn’t come charging out dropping the C-word, so the OP doesn’t have that excuse to retaliate by stealing gas. When you are informed you have just taken someone else’s property, continuing to take it is thievery, full stop.

  • kingsrings March 20, 2013, 12:42 pm

    Geez….some of you on here are so angry about this!! I can’t imagine why you think this deserves that degree of emotion, especially when it didn’t happen to you personally.

    But anyway, both women were in the wrong, for reasons already stated by previous posters. But I do have to wonder why the kerosene pumper device wasn’t set to stop pumping once someone had pre-bought their gas. Then, when they go out there, it can be turned on again. This would stop the innocent mistake of someone not realizing that someone was ahead in line of them.

    This used to be a problem at as a gas station I frequented years ago. There were clear instructions on the pump that everyone was to pump the gas first, then go into the station to pay for it. One time as I was doing that, a woman angrily came running out, saying that I had taken the gas she just paid for. She hadn’t followed instructions and had pre-paid and then was going to pump the gas. Why the clerk allowed that, especially seeing that I was already at the pump, I don’t know.

  • AJ March 20, 2013, 1:03 pm

    Sorry, for anyone defending the OP in anyway, you are completely wrong. You can condemn the screaming woman all you want, but perhaps you should keep one thing in mind. She was being stolen from. She used her money, pay for something she needed, and someone arrogantly came a long, started taking it from her, then had an attitude about it. The OP can whine all they want about being mistreated. But when you steal from someone, they tend to get very, very angry. The OP, I would suggest, was actually very lucky that all that happened was they were yelled and cursed at. We live in a very crazy and often times very violent world. The OP best rethink this and be very thankful that they were only yelled at, and not assaulted for their ‘mistake’. I’m not condoning it, I’m just saying, watch the news, the reaction could have been much, much worse. Was the OP’s entitlement really worth what could have happened?

    • admin March 21, 2013, 4:59 am

      However, the mother’s anger and vulgar language is not an acceptable response to her perception of being victimized by a kerosene thief. It should go without saying on this blog that that kind of reaction is definitely ehell worthy despite many responders’ belief that they have a right to react that way. If I to place myself in the position of the young mother, I would have poked my head out the station door and stated, “Hey, excuse me? I just paid for that kerosene you are now pumping.” If the person kept pumping or indicated they had no intention of stopping, I would have asked the station attendant to either stop the pump or be aware that a customer was in the process of taking kerosene I had just paid for. While he was handling it on his end, I would have used my cell phone camera to record the situation in case this was a real theft event.

      While I do agree that screaming and foul language are not productive ways to resolve a dilemma, I am not entirely against the idea of using social peer pressure to make a point. Telling the station attendant and other customers that a particular person usurped a place in line to take something that did not belong to him/her is a form of peer pressure to reform behavior or at least identify it as unacceptable. I think losing emotional control and screaming and cursing causes a loss of credibility to pull that off. I have on several occasions over the years calmly but firmly told linebutters, in front of other waiting customers, that their behavior is not acceptable and they need to get behind the rest of us who are waiting patiently.

  • Goldie March 20, 2013, 1:13 pm

    I would’ve agreed with Admin, if not for this: “I apologized again, and suggested we sort it out in the office…. The young woman continued to shout at me, though, and said that not only was I stealing her stuff, I was copping an attitude.” OP apologizes and offers to rectify the issue, and is being told that she’s copping an attitude? Sounds pretty illogical to me. Also this makes it pretty unclear as to what the young woman wanted OP to do. Turn on a time machine and go back to the minute before she started pumping?

    I can understand why OP assumed that the car was just parked at the kerosene pump, since few people buy kerosene. Cars don’t run on it (I looked it up). OP probably thought the car’s owner was using the kerosene pump as a parking spot? If it was a regular gas pump, then things would’ve probably gone differently.

  • Harley Granny March 20, 2013, 1:33 pm

    I gotta say I’m with Ergala on this one.

    An honest mistake was made….how did the LW know that a person was inside waiting to pay? Because in her experience, prepayment was not necessary. It could have been someone just parking there to run into the store for a soda.

    I also feel that when she was 1st approached by the screaming banshee, she offered a very logical solution to the problem.

    ““Oh!” I said. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize someone was using this pump.” I had already pumped about eight dollars worth of fuel. She kept shouting, saying that I was stealing her gas. I said, “Look, why don’t I finish with this can, then you can go ahead and get what you need.” My manner was calm and polite. I explained, when I could get a word in, that I’d been getting kerosene here for years and never been asked to pre-pay. I apologized again, and suggested we sort it out in the office, but that I didn’t want to leave an open container of flammable liquid sitting out in the open. ”

    I don’t think the banshee gave the LW a chance to explain…sounds to me she was trying to tell her how the misunderstanding came about. I didn’t get a sense of entitlement at all. I saw someone trying to find a reasonable solution to the problem.

    The fact that the banshee is actually the one the escalated the situation is being ignored. Should the LW stop pumping when the 1st can was full?….probably but from the sounds of it, the young banshee just wanted to yell and argue. Once someone starts to call me names they are no longer worth my time to try to reason with them.

  • White Lotus March 20, 2013, 1:38 pm

    A fair number of people seem to be confusing paraffin, white gas, or kerosene with gasoline as used to run automobiles. Kerosene (etc.) is dispensed at different locations in different ways (not directly into a car, for example, but always into cans) and there are different standards of usage. “Oh, heck, sorry. I didn’t know you were prepaying. I always pay after I fill my cans. Let me see how much I take and I will pay for it inside and make sure you get what you paid for. I apologize for line busting. I didn’t know there was a line.” That would make sense to me. That would defuse me had I gone into prepay for five gallons and found somebody pumping what I thought was my paraffin. Obviously, the woman was a newbie at this task. I don’t think there are pre-pay limited meters at kerosene pumps, so it is not a problem. I think OP was OK and the woman was spoiling for a fight. Nothing OP could have done would have changed that.

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