1/3 Of South Florida Gas Pumps Failed State Accuracy Tests

More than a third South Florida’s gas station pumps have failed the state’s accuracy test in the past three years. An analysis of state inspections reveals that slightly more than half of the broken pumps err in favor of the consumer. The state inspects all pumps every 12-18 months.

The Sun-Sentinel analyzed state inspection reports from 2004 to 2006. The analysis found 580 of more than 2,500 stations in South Florida had at least one pump dispensing more gas than customers paid to purchase, while 477 provided less fuel than they should.

“If you go to the grocery store and buy a gallon of milk, you expect a gallon of milk,” said Jason Toews, co-founder of Gasbuddy.com, a consumer advocacy site that tracks gas prices. “The same goes for gasoline.”

It’s unclear if Florida’s pump failure rate is higher or lower than in other states. In 2003, a national survey by the National Conference on Weights and Measures, found a 6 percent failure rate on gas dispensers tested in 2002. South Florida’s failure rate in recent years mirrors the nation.

Consumer vigilance can help uncover crooked station owners. One motorist complained to the state after a station charged him for 21 gallons of gas to fill up his 18 gallon tank.

34 percent of area gas stations fail pump tests in last three years [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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  1. ry81984 says:

    I remember a show on Discovery where they interviewed a fuel inspector.

    He said the majority of cases when a pump was not calibrated correctly it dispensed too much gasoline.

  2. moorie679 says:

    Well 580 to 477 sounds pretty even, also I wonder if this survey included -/+ limits, because when you buy a gallon of milk, it is not going to be EXACTLY 1 gallon, happens in manufacturing more than these types of businesses but there is no way to prevent them, they would cost a lot of money and it still will not be exact. If they were preventable, I am sure shell would be more than happy to not to dispense more gas than what people had paid for.

  3. BigNutty says:

    Working at Chevron and Shell our pumps were always giving away to much gas. They had a private firm come to calibrate the pumps often to keep their loss down.

    I also worked for a time at an independent station owned by two brothers in the Los Angeles area. They cheated the customers by purposely calibrating the pumps in their favor, making thousands in extra money.

    They only rigged the regular unleaded (the cheapest gas) so when those pumps were shut down the customers would wind up buying the expensive premium gas so these brothers would win either way.

    They were finally caught after a number of inspections showed continued calibration errors in the stations favor.

    They claimed it was the pumps fault, and settled by paying a fine to the state. No real penalty for ripping off customers.

  4. Mr. Gunn says:

    The error was in the consumer’s favor, as many people are certain to miss. The businesses weren’t ripping people off, they were losing profits.

    But you guys go ahead and talk about people getting ripped off.

  5. Charles_Barrett - Now with Variable-Valve Timing says:

    I no longer will purchase fuel in Quartzite, AZ, on Interstate 10, 17 miles from the AZ-CA border. In college driving to visit Grandma, I fit 22 gallons into my ’80 Cutlass with a 20 gallon gas tank. Out in the middle of nowhere (not so much nowadays), they figured they had you by the short-and-curlies. I still have family near Sedona, and still travel the same route, but I have a different refill/potty break agenda.

  6. humphrmi says:

    @Mr. Gunn: Um, even the summary of the article stated:

    The analysis found 580 of more than 2,500 stations in South Florida had at least one pump dispensing more gas than customers paid to purchase, while 477 provided less fuel than they should.

    So as you apparently you missed, in about half the cases the customers were ripped off. Or maybe you stopped reading after the comma.

  7. nonzenze says:

    @humphrmi: The fact that they are off equally in both directions* indicates that, on average, no one is getting ripped off. At the very minimum, the data refute the hypothesis that gas station owners are systematically short changing their customers.

    *If indeed that is the case. It’s feasible that the ones that are “over” are only over by a small amount but the ones that short you do so significantly. That would change my analysis quite a bit. Unfortunately, those data are not readily available so I’ll stick with what we got.

  8. erratapage says:

    If I’m going to one of the gas stations that gives me less fuel than I’m paying for, I’m going to feel ripped off. Since I usually go to the same two or three gas stations, I’m going to feel ripped off a lot.

    And it’s not going to make me feel too much better to know that someone else is getting more fuel than they paid for.

  9. Peter S. says:

    anyone else think that picture is a little optimistic?

  10. yg17 says:

    @Charles_Barrett: How empty was your tank? You can actually fit a bit extra due to the fuel line in your car, you can usually squeeze a bit extra in there. Don’t know if 2 gallons worth, but you can definitely get more than your tank capacity if you were running on fumes

  11. Charles_Barrett - Now with Variable-Valve Timing says:

    @Peter S.: Nope… Merely ancient history…

  12. Charles_Barrett - Now with Variable-Valve Timing says:

    @yg17: I have had gas cards since I started driving (Mom & Dad’s at first, my own once out of college). I *ALWAYS* fill up the tank at every refuel, and drove that car for a decade. I would NEVER run on fumes in the Arizona desert… I could have made a fuel stop in Blythe twenty miles earlier, but was confident I had enough to make it to Quartzite. The whole time I owned the Olds, a fillup was 17-19 gallons (I am conservative; more so as I grow older and experience catastrophic unscheduled fuel unavailability like following big SoCal earthquakes like Northridge in ’94). I’m pretty sure I was ripped off in Quartzite, and have avoided tanking up there ever since (this was 20 years ago, so current management there may be more honest…)

  13. alhypo says:

    @nonzenze: Unfortunately, not ripping off the average customer is an unacceptable practice. In food manufacturing, for example, it is impossible to get the exact quantity of food in the container, so manufactures examine the variability of their fills and set the average fill high enough to ensure that no more than 5 percent (or whatever they deem acceptable) of the boxes are under-filled. This means that a great number of them are over-filled, so the error is greatly in the benefit of the average customer and only 5 percent will be ripped off. However, you can be fairly confident that those who where ripped off will gain from the next transaction.

    In other words, it doesn’t really matter how many customers get more gas than they paid for. That’s the distributor’s problem to correct. The only thing we should be concerned with is if the rate of under-filling is too high. The over-fills do not cancel out the under-fills.

    Also, as was already mentioned, many people get gas from the same gas station whenever possible, and if that station is under-filling, those people will be consistently ripped-off.

  14. crnk says:

    Surprised that nobody has found the whole flaw of the article and statistics. Supposedly, 1/3 of the PUMPS failed, but the figures clearly state that it was 1/3 of the STATIONS had at least ONE PUMP calibrated wrong.

  15. humphrmi says:

    @nonzenze: Heh, well you just stick with that logic if it works for you, That means if I’m, say, a retailer, I can go ahead and overcharge you, as long as I undercharge someone else, and you won’t mind, right?

    But last time I looked this website was about empowering consumers, not apologists and shills.

  16. morganlh85 says:

    @Peter S.: lol! Seriously…those were the days huh?

  17. Charles_Barrett - Now with Variable-Valve Timing says:

    @morganlh85: My father was a private pilot, and foresaw the 1973 runup in fuel prices, prompting him and Mom to order a 1973 MBZ 220D (3 month delivery from Germany). On long-distance Interstate car trips, we had to be acutely aware of truckstops to obtain diesel fuel. That sucker had a 500 mile cruising range, so we had some flexibility. In those days (I was only ten) interstate truckers would toot their air horns as we passed them, noting the trunk badge) and give us the high-sign. I remember being in a small chocolate-brown MBZ sedan in a line of huge semi tractor-trailers waiting for our turn (and oh! the truckstop diners — so colorful and full of character). I remember us being thrilled at US$0.39 per US gallon for Diesel. Those were the days as well…

  18. CurbRunner says:

    How miraculous, something in the oil industry supply system that actually ended up favoring some consumers.

  19. 40mpgYaris says:

    @alhypo: I have 6 words to dispute your statement…”Sold by Weight not by Volume”. Read a bag of chips or a box of cereal.
    I worked for Kraft one summer, and to this day I’ll never forget the Kraft Dinner getting blown off the line by a blast of air because that box didn’t conform to the weight tolerances.

  20. moorie679 says:

    this is why i hate statistics, you can shift the data or highlight the data or word in such as way that it supports your hypothesis… you can manipulate the hell out of it… eeh guess I had to vent….. I know more than a couple people with Ph D’s at a big tire manufacturer and it annoys the hell out of me.

  21. derobert says:

    @humphrmi: They’re mechanical devices, they are put through a lot of use & abuse, they’re bound to come uncalibrated. With the data going on both sides (undercharge & overcharge), there is no reason to believe it is intentional. So, this is sort of a non-story, except maybe as Florida should Inspect Measuring Devices More Often. Of course, that’ll cost more, so there is a tradeoff there.

  22. alhypo says:

    @40mpgYaris: I don’t recall actually saying cereal was sold by volume. Oh, let me check… Nope, didn’t say it.

    I worked quality control for six years in food manufacturing, so thanks for the update. Anyway, I’m not sure what part of my statement you are supposedly disputing. Even if I were suggesting cereal boxes were measured by volume (which is idiotic) everything I said can be analogous to them being measured by weight. That machine you referenced only kicks-off the cereal boxes that are under-filled, of which there are relatively few assuming they have the filler set correctly. In order to ensure there are few under-fills, they must set the average fill higher than the actual weight printed on the box. The filler can’t possibly deliver the exact weight. If they set the average fill to the weight on the box, you would observe about half the boxes being blown from the line. This would cost them far more than simply over-filling most of them.

  23. StevieD says:

    What is the tolerance for gas pumps?

    I did a search…..

    I found a quick listing…

    [www.medinacountyauditor.org]

    The key sentence ….. ” hence the gas station is only allowed to deviate by .5%. “

    I am sure each state has a different standard. Or maybe they don’t.

    But using the 0.5% error allowance, in a 20 gallon fillup the allowed error could be +/- 0.1 gallon, which at $3 per gallon works out to be $0.30 error on a $60.00 purchase.

    If Florida has the same standards, that means that 580 stations were providing at least $0.31 more gas than desired (in a 20 gallon fillup) and 477 stations were providing at least $0.31 less gas than desired (in a 20 gallon fillup).

    As the article fails to mention the magnitude of all of these pump failures reported by the State of Florida, the only fact that can be determined is the pumps failed this rather exact test.

    In the mean time half the readership has gotten their panties in a wad over “intentional” overcharging by gas stations. Of course these same people will never admit that they might have gotten a few extra ounces of gasoline (as proved by the State of Florida).

  24. 40mpgYaris says:

    @alhypo: Read slower next time. I never said you said cereal, I was giving an example of food whose contents may have settled during shipping, making the package look less full, though containing the same amount as any other box.
    You did say “In food manufacturing, for example, it is impossible to get the exact quantity of food in the container” which is what I was disputing and which is ridiculous, because the packages are weighed, thus nobody is seriously short-changed.