A petrol station worker has said the demand for fuel has been “unprecedented” at his small garage, and that shop sales have “tanked” following a weekend of panic-buying.
Yasser Ahmed, 37, said he had “not had time to breathe” as people clamoured to fill up their tanks and he had sold a week’s worth of fuel in just two days.
“It’s unprecedented,” he told the PA news agency, speaking outside West Drayton service station, near Heathrow Airport, which he runs with his father.
“We had a delivery Friday morning. Driving in, that’s when it started hitting me, there was a lot of talk on the radio (about) panic buying.
“When I got into work it was considerably busy but not too bad.
“By the afternoon, when my dad left, I was nonstop. I didn’t have time to breathe.
“If there was a spillage outside, it’s a single man operation, I was having to hold everyone, clear the spillage then rush back in.
“I couldn’t even sit down.”
Mr Ahmed said his four-pump station had gone through 30,000 litres of fuel – the amount it would usually sell in a whole week – in just two days, and that he had not yet received confirmation of his next delivery on Wednesday.
He added that despite the frantic fuel buying, the station was taking financial losses.
“Yesterday we didn’t open up, we lost a whole day yesterday, today dad is in only because we have a lot of regular customers from the local community who are going to work and want to grab their coffee first in the morning.
“We’re not selling anything inside, our shop sales have tanked.”
He continued: “People are saying on social media that petrol station owners are doing really well and making a lot of money – we’re not.
“Whatever we’ve sold, we’re only making about five pence per litre – it’s not enough.
“We make our money from shop sales, and they’re gone.
“We’re a family-run business, just myself and my dad, so we’re going to have to work however we can.
“It’s like in the pandemic, we just did what we needed to do to get by.”
Other petrol stations near the airport said they had been forced to take special measures to manage customers’ behaviour.
One station manager told PA that staff had been forced to close the toilets to stop customers waiting for pumps to reopen.
He said despite a 4am delivery on Sunday, long queues formed immediately at the station, with drivers “desperately” seeking fuel – forcing the station to close until 7am when more workers were on shift.
This included one driver who had arrived with a “truckload” of large canisters for filling and was asked to leave the station, the manager said.
But Mr Ahmed said he had not experienced any selfish behaviour or fighting between customers at his garage and that in some instances people were “being kind to each other”.
“Everyone is just panic buying through fear that (fuel) is going to run out and, because of that, it actually has run out,” he said.