Reedplayernc and I have traveled all over the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. We started out years ago using busses. The first class ones, and some of the second class ones, are truly excellent. We found out later on that to go exploring deeply, a rental car is needed. If you have two or more people, renting a car can be cost effective and your comfort level will soar. Charge it to a Visa card and you can decline that expensive CDW insurance.
Driving a rental car exposes you to the wonders of the Mexican national petroleum company, Pemex. In general Pemex runs nice gas stations. The bathrooms are usually acceptable, there's often a convenience store attached, they pump the fuel for you, clean the windshield, and check the fluids. They can be a nice travel oasis. Most Pemex are honest, sometimes amazingly so, in that ripping off confused foreign tourists can be as easy as taking candy from a baby.
I do hear about people getting cheated at Pemex stations, and I often get asked about this by people who have seen our pics and are seeking advice on driving in Mexico, especially in the rural Yucatan. For one, tip the people who are honest and render you services. Sometimes though, it's possible you may never know you were cheated.
A few basic pointers:
- Get out of the car and stand near the pump where your view of the numbers cannot be blocked.
- As your tank nears full, don't be distracted by questions from the employees, things dropped on the ground, or shouting (Oh my god you have a flat tire! Are those Nikes you have on? etc.)
- Know about how much your tank holds and about how much money it takes to fill it.
Anyway, I wanted to talk about the most corrupt Pemex I've ever seen. As I said before, most are honest, but this one gets the GRAND PRIZE for thievery and having the world's largest balls (cojones) while doing it. Google "pemex xpujil" and you'll find many stories about them. Our first encounter with them was in 2003 when we filled up with them twice, then we met them again in 2007. Apparently consistency over many years is their specialty.
How to find this famous Pemex:
It's on Federal Highway 186 a few miles east of Xpujil in the state of Campeche. Highway 186 makes a straight shot from Chetumal, Quintana Roo, on the Atlantic coast, running westward to Escárcega, Campeche. Xpujil is about at the midpoint and makes a nice base for visiting the Mayan ruins of Xpuhil, Becán, Chicanná, and several others. Drive about 10 miles east of the town of Xpujil on the 186 and the Pemex will be on your left.
Their tricks are well refined!
Now that almost all Pemex pumps are digital, the main thing to worry about is getting the final total before it is erased or changed. Just to the side of the digital display there is a number keypad that includes a "CLEAR" button. The second they stop the pumping they will either clear the total immediately, or they will clear it and rapidly tap in a new total, using the number keys, that is a lot higher than what was pumped. The goal is to get you to look away during the 1/100th of a second it takes them to do this. Sometimes multiple employees are involved.
In 2003 they got mad at me because I fixed my gaze on the pump like a stone statue and refused to look away even though the guy was yelling at me. All through the pumping process he was firing questions at me: "Where are you from? Where are you going? Where'd you get that belt you have on? Those Nikes look cool!"
He kept turning up the volume with each question, then finally broke out laughing when I would not look away.
A few days later I was back filling up again. Strange the routine was the same when we'd gotten to know each other so well the last time. This time as the tank was nearing full, he yelled out. "Oh my God that tire is flat!" When I refused to look at it he yelled, "Would you look at the fucking tire? Look at that fucking flat tire man!!" LOL. Didn't work! :p
In 2007 we were back and ready for the usual entertainment, but this time the humor was gone and replaced by slick slight of hand. The lack of chatter lulled me into a false sense of complacency. I got bored, and began to let my guard down, but at the last second I caught it! The instant the nozzle clicked full, a flurry of employees dashed by the pump and I saw a hand reach up to tap the keys on the number pad. My total of about 200 pesos was changed to 340 pesos in the blink of an eye as the group dashed by. My attendant smiled and said "340 please". I said I saw the whole thing as I slid the 200 pesos in his hand and walked away. He laughed and said "have a good trip". 😀
Long story about nuttin', huh? Oh well, I like to get wordy.
Below are a few pics from a couple of nice Pemex, not the one mentioned above.
This one is a lonely but nice one on the free road that runs from Cancun to Merida. The laid-back staff loves to chat awhile. Refreshing cold sodas are inside:
This one was somewhere way south of Merida as we were heading to Chiapas. Nice bathrooms and good coffee. You can see my cup on the roof:
Sipping that good coffee. We'd been to a bar called "Freeway" in Merida the night before, and my eyes were still slits:
Brian posing at the same Pemex: