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PetrolDirect - The Facts
16th September 2005
"Is it real?" and "How can
I order?" are two of the most common questions
fielded by PetrolDirect's team of customer service staff
(of one person). The answers are "no" and
"you can't", because PetrolDirect is a spoof
site, partly a satire on e-commerce, and partly frustration
about the price of fuel (or more accurately, frustration
with people moaning about the price of fuel),
and with a little bit of liberal tree hugging environmental
comment thrown in.
The site was created way back in May 2005, but in
September 2005 it hit a nerve, pulling in over 50,000
visitors a week and the traffic is still growing. Most
of that traffic has come from people who have visited
the site and are now "in" on the joke, who
then go and post onto various forums and message boards
to wind people up.
A surprising number of people fall for it, and many
messageboard threads are very funny in their own right.
The site is designed to be plausible to those who just
skim it - but read more deeply and it gets increasingly
silly. This gives a great opportunity for people on
messageboards to call each other muppets.
The site is the work of part-time humorist Conrad
Longmore who is also the only member of staff who says
- "PetrolDirect combines ideas that I had floating
around in my head for some time. Eventually I just ran
out of excuses not to do something with them."
Some inspiration comes from a site called Spam
The Engines - "that's a very simple and elegant
site that was made a few years ago by someone else",
and also Kittens
Direct - "I'd love to see the owner develop
that site". The fictional PetrolDirect can be seen
as a sister company to the Slimeware
Corporation, a site created in 2003: "that
was a parody I created of companies that made a business
of installing spyware and parasiteware onto people's
PCs. When I created it I thought it was all pretty far-out
stuff, but then the slimeware manufacturers actually
went and did it in the end. I guess that perhaps
someone will crack the secret of sending petrol in the
So is there a deep and meaningful message to PetrolDirect.
"Errr.. not really. It's just meant to be funny.
Although it did enable me to have a rant about those
people who moan about fuel prices and then drive a giant
4x4 down to the shops. Ultimately though the problem
with fuel prices is that demand is outstripping supply,
and it's a non-renewable energy source.. then you have
to factor in the carbon emissions. Perhaps petrol at
a pound a litre will make us think a bit harder about
the issues here."
What about the issue of fuel duty? "It's expensive,
certainly, but in fact fuel in the UK is now not much
more expensive that many other parts of Europe, simply
because the price of oil keeps rising and the amount
of tax stays more or less the same. Taxing fuel is also
a simple and cost effective way of collecting revenue,
and it's proportional to the amount you use the roads
and the fuel consumption of your engine. On the other
hand, the road fund licence is becoming increasingly
obsolete as a tax-generating tool - perhaps this should
be abolished, and instead cars should display a small insurance
and MOT certificate in their windows".
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