Return to traditional methods for Halesworth petrol station

PUBLISHED: 07:00 13 September 2012 | UPDATED: 09:23 13 September 2012

Halesworth Garage, Hammonds offer the service of a forecourt attendant to fill the car with fuel, check tyre pressure and clean the windscreen.  Attendant Kingsley Elliff.

Halesworth Garage, Hammonds offer the service of a forecourt attendant to fill the car with fuel, check tyre pressure and clean the windscreen. Attendant Kingsley Elliff.

© Archant 2012

In an age of faceless automated tills, credit card transactions and online orders, the days of customer service seem consigned to history.

A thing of the past?

A number of services that were common place are much rarer sights today:

•Milk deliveries - almost every household used to have pints of milk delivered to their door

•Bagging of shopping - many supermarkets now leave customers to bag their own shopping

•Corona deliveries - orangeade, lemonade, limeade and cherryade were among the soft drinks delivered

•Ironed laundry - delivering freshly ironed laundry to the door

•Rag and bone man - collecting unwanted household items and selling them on

Are you still providing a traditional service when others have gone by the board? Email

The once common sight of specialist doorstep deliveries and the bagging of shopping have become much harder to find as costs have been cut across businesses.

But in Halesworth, one family firm is among those still flying the flag for personal service after bringing back a petrol forecourt assistant, while in Norfolk at least one garage has never offered self-service.

For two hours once a week customers at Hammond’s Jet fuel station in Norwich Road, Halesworth, can now enjoy a member of staff filling up their car, cleaning their headlights, washing the windscreen and checking oil and tyre pressures as part of the service.

The idea started three months ago with the aim of helping elderly drivers in particular, but the ‘Wednesday walkabout’, between noon and 2pm, has become popular with almost every visitor to the pumps.

Manning the pumps yesterday was Kingsley Elliff, 59.

“I clean the windscreen, check the tyres, check the oil, basically everything they used to do in the old days,” he said.

The retired sales manager said that reaction from customers had been very positive.

“Some people have been scared stiff when I’m wearing my yellow jacket, as they think they’ve been caught for speeding. Others think I’m having a laugh at first, but generally it’s been very positive and often people come once a week.

“It is fun which is what life is all about.”

Manager Louise Hammond said that the idea came from the family business’s attempts to care for their community.

She said that they always offer the opportunity to fill cars if a customer asks, but decided to offer the extra services at a particular time with those who struggle at the pumps particularly in mind.

“Many people come back especially at that time,” she said. “Kingsley is ideal for it as he is bright, enthusiastic and charming.”

One regular customer is Lynn Rogers, of Halesworth.

Mrs Rogers said: “I come especially on a Wednesday for the laughs. He is so helpful.”

Joy Baldwin, 69, of Rumburgh, said that she thought it was nice to have that personal touch in comparison to a number of other businesses.

“You are just a number rather than a person in some places,” she said.

Across the county border in Norfolk, the service has remained standard at one garage throughout its existence.

Terry Moore has run the Manor Garage, in Brundall, for 24 years and says it has always been an attended service.

Mr Moore said that they check the tyres and oil levels as standard, with people travelling from Norwich especially for it.

“We are right by the boats and a lot of people from away who go on the Broads are amazed, and some say they have never seen it. Other people say it takes them back to their youth,” he said.

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