Gas is something most of us buy regularly, yet we never actually see what we're getting for our money. The product goes right into our vehicles and that's it.
So the Troubleshooters were curious: Are customers getting what they pay for? Are gas stations playing by the rules?
Inspectors are supposed to check each pump every 18 months.
Bucks County Weights and Measures recently invited the Troubleshooters to come along on its inspections.
"We get hundreds of complaints every year from consumers who complain about problems when they purchase gas," Michael Bannon of Bucks County Weights and Measures.
At the first gas station, there were no problems.
But in Bensalem, there was "pump jump!"
"Basically, as soon as you pick up the pump, before you have a chance to squeeze the nozzle, it started charging you," Chris Tomlinson of Bucks County Weights and Measures said.
A customer could have been charged 9-cents for gas he or she never got.
Dirt in the nozzle could be the cause, but this is something you can and should watch out for.
The owner promised to get the problem fixed immediately and when the inspectors returned, there was no more pump jump.
But when we arrived at Classic Super Pumper on Route 1, all the pumps appeared to be in use.
Seconds later, two sets of pumps shut down.
The attendants claimed they couldn't get them back on which meant inspectors couldn't do their job on those pumps.
And the inspectors tell Action News this same power problem has manifested at the station twice before.
"It's almost like somebody doesn't want us to test the pump for some reason," Tomlinson said.
The inspectors tagged the pumps and instructed the station not to use them or tamper with them until the inspectors returned.
But right in view of the Troubleshooters' undercover camera, within the hour, the station manager opened the cabinets in question, the pumps came back to life, and some of the tags that clearly said do not remove were gone.
Undercover video of gas station
Then the attendant used those pumps to fill up customer vehicles.
When we questioned the attendant, he said, "I don't know who cut the cord. If you have it all on camera, who cut them?"
The manager of the station then admitted he did.
"You have to talk to the owner about it," the manager told Action News.
The owner is Wayne Michie.
"Wayne got bills to pay," the manager said. "He told me to cut the tag because he got to pump the gas to pay the bills tonight. That's all he told me."
Michie is now facing charges filed by Bucks County Consumer Protection.
"I had an electrical problem and the only way I can test the electric to see if it's still holding up is to turn it on, sir. I can't afford it and it doesn't make any sense to turn something off that might shut itself off again anyway," Mitchie told Action News.
Michie isn't a first-time offender. He's pleaded guilty three times to other court actions brought against this station.
He also says he is pleading not guilty to the recent violations filed against him and believes he has a pretty good track record considering he's been in business 45 years and has 52 pumps.
Michie also points out when inspectors did check the pumps once the power came back on, while one pump was out of calibration, it was actually giving away too much gas, in favor of the customer.
Tips at a fueling station from Bucks County Weights and Measures:
Look for a clean and well maintained station.
Try to use a gas pump closer to the front of the store. Thieves often place skimmers at the gas pumps farther away from the store so they aren't noticed as quickly. Many times a station may have camera surveillance on door ways for added security.
Don't smoke or light a flame!
Check to make sure the gas pump dispenser cabinet is closed and has not been tampered with. Many stations are now putting a piece of security tape over the cabinet to ensure it has not been opened by unauthorized individuals.
Look for last inspection sticker on fuel pump by Weights and Measures. Every pump should have one. This ensures the pump has been tested for accuracy. If you don't see one go to another pump until you see a valid inspection sticker.
Look for anything unusual or suspicious at or around the credit card reader itself before inserting your credit card for payment.
- Use a credit card instead of a debit card. Credit cards have better fraud protection, and the money is not deducted immediately from your account.
- If using a debit card at the pump, choose to run it as a credit card instead of putting a PIN number in. That way, the PIN number is safe.
If it asks you if you want a receipt the answer is yes always. This is for two reasons to make sure you're a charged and received the correct grade and charged the correct gallons that you see on the pump. Another reasons is if the fuel is contaminated (this happens) many times it takes time for the contaminated fuel to go through your engine and show signs of problems. You need proof of purchase.
Whichever grade you are using, put EXACTLY 10 GALLONS in your tank, then look at the dollar amount, if the dollar amount is not EXACTLY 10 times the price of the fuel you have chosen, something is wrong. For example if you're purchasing fuel at $2.60 a gallon you stop the pump at 10 gallons your total purchase price should be $26.00 even.
After purchase make sure you have your credit card back. You have a receipt and been charged correctly for the correct grade of fuel and total dollars spent. Enjoy your drive!
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