MOTORISTS are driving off without paying for petrol at Lismore service stations almost daily and the number of offences is on the increase.
A Lismore service station assistant manager said in a recent incident the driver of four-wheel drive filled up with $60 worth of diesel before driving off without paying.
The assistant manager did however record the number plate details.
"Generally we get one a week driving off without paying but lately it's been increasing," she said.
"I think it's increasing because the cost of living in general keeps going up.
"We haven't really changed our prices that much lately, it's just been a couple of cents up or down."
The woman said she had worked at two service stations in the area and that the cost of drive-offs varied.
"The ones we had when I was at the other site were big ones, up to $120 at a time," she said.
"The area that I'm working in now, the majority of our sales are small so drive-offs are normally small.
"They average about $20 to $30."
She said some people simply forget to pay.
"The people who forget to pay generally fill their car up and drive off because they're so engrossed in their life that they just forget," she said.
"In my eight-odd years in service stations I've only had two forgetful people come back and pay."
People with insufficient funds in their bank account or those who had forgotten their wallets were more likely to return to pay, she said.
"About eight out of 10 people come back to pay within 24 hours and the ones who don't, have their details sent off the State Debt Recovery Office," she said.
"Most drive-offs go pretty much unpaid because it's hard to get the number plate to start with in some cases."
One offender has become well-known around Lismore service stations.
"When he comes in we don't start the pump for him and when he drives off I get on the phone and notify the other service stations," the assistant manager said.