Published: 05:00, 10 November 2021
| Updated: 14:31, 10 November 2021
Additional reporting by Chloe Holmwood
A Kent supermarket became the cheapest in Britain for petrol and diesel when rats performed a mouster-stroke and forced it to slash its prices.
Rodents chewed through a main data cable at Tesco, in Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey, leaving staff unable to change the electronic price sign at the entrance to the filling station.
With boards advertising petrol at 134.9p a litre and diesel at 136.9p, bosses decided the only option was to honour the rates for customers.
A Tesco insider said: "A rat has bitten through a cable which controls the price on the sign so we have had to keep selling fuel at that price until the fault is repaired."
The damage meant the station in Bridge Road had also been unable to take contactless card payments although customers could pay with cash or key in their credit card PIN.
The insider added: "I’m not sure how long it will take to repair. Hopefully it won’t be too long.”
Meanwhile, delighted Islanders had been filling up vehicles at bargain basement prices since last Friday in scenes similar to the 1949 Ealing comedy Whisky Galore! where residents on the fictional Scottish Isle of Todday discover a secret store of shipwrecked spirit.
According to the AA, the lowest unleaded in the UK was in Northern Ireland at 139.5p a litre - still 4.6p more expensive than in Sheerness - and the cheapest diesel, also in Northern Ireland, was 142.2p - a 5.3p difference.
Just three miles away, Morrisons at Neats Court retail park, Queenborough, was selling unleaded at 145.9 a litre and 149.4 for diesel. Based on those prices, a motorist with a 70-litre fuel tank would have saved £7.70 on unleaded and £8.70 on diesel.
Sheppey is usually a few pence more expensive than the mainland but Asda in Sittingbourne, normally one of the cheapest in the area, was charging 142.7p a litre for diesel.
Part of Tesco's station forecourt had also been coned off during the unexpected cheap fuel bonanza.
But the great Tesco giveaway looked like coming to a disappointingly early end before more motorists cottoned on.
A spokesman for the supermarket said on Monday it was closing the filling station "for a short time" to fix a "technical issue," and this took effect yesterday.
It isn't the first time rats have plagued the supermarket which is built next to a canal dug in 1863 to defend Sheerness Dockyard from invaders.
They were reported to have gnawed through concrete to reach the supermarket's food store many years ago.
Islander David Jones said: "Roland Rat and his companions have long been a problem in the bushes and undergrowth near the moat which adjoins the Tesco site.
"There have been previous attempts to eradicate them using baited traps. The rodents are attracted by bread left by people feeding ducks and wildfowl as well as discarded fast food."