Sorry, We Don't Know Why Our Pump Is Overcharging You

Reader Matt says he bought gas from a Sunoco station in New Jersey, but the price advertised didn’t match the price he was actually charged. He even “double checked” to make sure there wasn’t a separate price for cash vs credit. Matt says he tried to resolve the dispute with an employee, but that the employee “just kept saying he doesn’t know why it’s happening. So I just snapped a picture and left.” What should Matt do?

Gas stations fall under the watchful eye of New Jersey’s Office of Weights and Measures, so we think Matt should report this gas station immediately. Unlike more lackadaisical government agencies, the folks at Weights and Measures are usually pretty enthusiastic about their jobs, particularly when the job involves busting shady gas stations for overcharging their customers. If something illegal is going on here, they’re the ones to put a stop to it.

Here’s an example of how one Consumerist reader brought down the sword of justice on a Wisconsin gas station. Now it’s your turn.

New Jersey Office of Weights And Measures Contact Information [New Jersey]

UPDATE: Matt filed a report with the New Jersey Office of Weights And Measures (which he forwarded to the Consumerist), and, independently, Sunoco contacted us to confirm the location of the gas station so that they can conduct their own investigation.

Comments

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  1. mattindustries says:

    I would have just stolen a few candy bars before reporting them. After all, “I don’t know why I am taking these candy bars, so I am not obliged to offer you payment.”

  2. dweebster says:

    Unfair business practice too, methinks.

  3. jswilson64 says:

    Trying to figure out how to blame Matt for something…

  4. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Random NJ Gas Station story. Keep in mind, it is all full serve in NJ, no self serve allowed. While being filled up, a guy walked up with a gallon gas can and had it filled. The attendent tried to top it off to round off to an even dollar amount, but the guy wanted just 1 gallon (I believe it was $3.90 at the time). They got in a HUGE arguement because the attendent didn’t carry change. Strange to think that something is being advertised “per gallon” yet you get a hard time when trying to buy 1 gallon.

  5. Mayor McRib says:

    What did the price say on the pump readout screen?
    Someone just may have been lazy and not changed the sign?

  6. dweebster says:

    @jswilson64: …for taking an out of focus picture.

  7. incognit000 says:

    My guess is that they raised prices and didn’t change the sign to reflect that. Of course that’s still fraud, and the Weights and Measures people will love the chance to come down hard on these people. I say report ‘em.

  8. MeOhMy says:

    @AlteredBeast: Yeah I had it out once with an attendant who did a “classic oversqueeze” trying to round it to the nearest quarter and then tried to squeeze it up to the next quarter after that and missed that one, too! I could tell he was going to try and squeeze it up ANOTHER quarter before I told him to quit it!

    “Professional gas dispensing specialists” indeed!

  9. JN2 says:

    Speaking to an attendant is a service upgrade, you will be charged accordingly.

  10. InThrees says:

    @jswilson64: This is all Matt’s fault for having a car. And/or a credit card.

    Anyway, I can see him leaving if he was pressed for time, since usually you fill up while, you know, driving somewhere… but I can’t help but think if he had pressed the issue maybe the employee would have a) called a manager, b) given him the difference in cash, and c) investigated the pump and possibly shut it down until it could be fixed.

    Maybe.

  11. jasezero says:

    Most of the machines are updated via computer remotely. No one complains when the gas price is wrong in your favor and the station eats the difference.

  12. Jersey’s been cracking down on this crap lately. Report them immediately.

  13. fostina1 says:

    i noticed my gas station automatically charged me .04 before i even had it in the tank this morning.

  14. mac-phisto says:

    @InThrees: methinks you haven’t spent a whole lot of time in jersey…

  15. Orv says:

    This isn’t fraud, of course, but kind of interesting: I’ve found that Arco’s pumps shut off sooner, to the point where I’m unable to get a completely full tank. I’m wondering if this is so people will have to fill up more often, thus generating more $0.45 debit card fees. (Aarco does not accept credit cards.)

  16. JeffMc says:

    @fostina1: I think your state’s Weights and Measure department would be more than happy to hear about that, too.

  17. teh says:

    @Mayor McRib: What’s on the sign is the advertised price. Sure, it may be for 9/10ths of a gallon, but they still have to honor those prices. You can’t just “be lazy” and get away with cheating your customers.

  18. wattznext says:

    @AlteredBeast

    You bring up a very good point. Seeing as how NJ is full serve only (by law), i wonder how many people get overcharged and never even know. I’m sure most are in too much of a hurry to get out and check, or whip out a calculator and crunch the numbers before driving away…

  19. ekthesy says:

    @mattindustries:

    Which Sunoco? I am also a New Jerseyan (also named Matt) and want to avoid this joint. Bad enough you can’t even pump it yourself.

    Yesterday I filled up on the way home from the Delaware Water Gap, sitting in my car, the attendant hooks up the pump and it doesn’t start. I get out of my car to jiggle the handle so the pump starts and he runs over yelling at me “GET BACK IN YOUR CAR! THAT’S ILLEGAL!” “Just trying to save us both some time here.” WTF.

  20. ekthesy says:

    @ekthesy:

    Duh, the Sunoco near the Engineering quad in Princeton. *smack*

  21. msbask says:

    @jasezero: That is lame. Because there are cheats out there, the OP shouldn’t care when he’s cheated?

    I guess the next time I’m in Macy’s, if they overcharge me for something I should just shut up. After all, the guy before me might have changed a price tag and ripped Macy’s off.

    It’s not my job to make sure the gas station isn’t being cheated. It’s our job to make sure that I am not being cheated.

  22. fostina1 says:

    @JeffMc: i emailed them. i wonder if it will help.

  23. msbask says:

    Oops. (our job = my job in that last post)

  24. AgentTuttle says:

    The great thing about gas stations is that they sell what you’d need to burn the place down and $1 would still do the job. Just kidding. Report to weights and measures asap or see if the w&m threat will get you some action,… or free gas.

  25. PDX909 says:

    Doesn’t it just look like the attendant pumped the wrong fuel here? I’m not sure I’m seeing the problem. Regular gas is 4.15 and Plus is 4.22. Bit early for me and math though.

  26. cookmefud says:

    @fostina1: there is a tricky way to get the gas held in reservoir in the hose at the pump that a lot of people out there seem to be doing now. when someone hasn’t done this (which is usually the case), you don’t pay to fill the hose. when someone has done this, you pay to flood the hose with gas before it reaches the nozzle.

  27. cookmefud says:

    it’s also nice when the professional gas pumpers in new jersey lean up against your car while pumping.
    that happened so many times when I lived there I lost count.

    “hey man, I’m paying for gas not scratches.”

  28. Average_Joe says:

    @Mayor McRib: Not necessarily fraud. The pump most likely displayed the higher price. Normally you would see that price when filling up. I am not sure how it will be treated in a state where the law ensures you don’t get to see the pump price.

  29. donkeyjote says:

    Anyone else in Jersey remember when Full Service included window cleaning and oil checking?

    Yea, me neither… :(

  30. Eldritch says:

    I got my gas pumped at a Wawa in NJ last week and handed over my debt card, and the pimple-faced teen pumping my gas said he needed my pin number to use my debt card… but I wasn’t allowed to get out of my car and punch it in myself because that was illegal, so he wanted me to just TELL him my pin numbers.

    I refused and gave him cash. Wtf though, that seemed so shady… ah, New Jersey, always so shady!

  31. mayrc87 says:

    This happens a lot in NY too. I usually pay attention to the advertisement price and the price at the pump. If they don’t match I’ll just drive away.

  32. WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

    Absolutely contact weights and measures. I used to work for a gas station, and if new jersey’s is anything like Ohio’s, they will bring the hammer down so hard and so fast that that gas station won’t know what hit them.

    That may not get you your refund, but go back when the manager is in and see if he can help.

  33. wattznext says:

    @mayrc87: Drive away AFTER pumping your gas i hope ;)

  34. mtaylor924 says:

    @Eldritch: That is shady, indeed! The law in NJ says you can’t pump your own gas, nothing about getting out of the car. I have gotten gas in NJ many a time, and waited until the gas is flowing to use the restroom or go buy a candy bar and soda.

    Also, they are supposed to ask you to punch in your PIN yourself. Some stations even have the little PIN pads on a wire – like the ones inside – that they can hand you in your car to keep it more secure instead of doing it on the pump.

  35. christoj879 says:

    Chargeback.

    In Jersey, the whole cash/credit price difference is really prevalent among most stations, with one big exception being Hess. I haven’t seen them charge different prices, and some Sunocos; but most charge about $0.10-$0.15 more/gal. I have a Hess card which gets 10% back (first three months of having the card) so it’s cool to get the Jersey price minus 10% (I live in PA where the taxes are higher). I pump it anyway, as I’m on the road and it’s nice to get out and stretch, also I always have to go into the station because it’s diesel and most of the diesel pumps don’t have readers.

    Anyway, I digress. A station near my house recently got their signs changed to show a cash/credit price, but most of the time the two prices are the same. Guess my neighborhood doesn’t take kindly to charging higher for using your card.

  36. ekthesy says:

    @donkeyjote:

    Rarely–and I emphasize the “rare”–you’ll come across a station where the guy will squeegee your windows. It’s exponentially more likely to happen at an “independent” station where the owner only owns that location and pumps the gas himself.

    If you live in Union County, the Shell on Mountain Ave. in Mountainside and Chet’s Getty on Springfield Ave. in Berkeley Heights–they’ll wash your windows for you, every time.

    The oil-check, sadly, is as dead as the dodo. I just check it myself.

  37. christoj879 says:

    @Eldritch: Gotta have an identity theft, gotta have a Wawa!

  38. 8pozzum says:

    @cookmefud The “tricky” way to drain the hose you are talking about actually indicates that the anti-drain valve in the dispensing nozzle has gone bad. In a properly functioning nozzle you will be unable to drain the hose. When the W&M Inspector does his yearly check on the device, he will actually try to drain the hose, if he gets more than a cu. in. or so extra (sorry, can’t remember the exact tolerance for this test) the pump will be rejected.

    As for the OP, this pricing error is not frequent, but it does happen. My bet is that the clerk didn’t know how to change the price in the CC machine so just left it at the old price until the manager came in. Due to W&M law, your reciept has to show the amount of gallons purchased, price per gallon, and total purchased. The old non-integrated CC machines have to have the new prices manually entered after a price change.

  39. Myownheroine says:

    @PDX909:

    I agree. It’s pretty clear that the amount of gas under the $4.15 costs $4.22.

  40. l3randon says:

    PDX and Myownheroine: You assume that this is merely a misunderstanding because the price on the receipt is kind of close to the number for 93 octane? The receipt says $4.219, and the sign says $4.229. I may be wrong, but to me those look like two different numbers. Besides which, the receipt also says “Plus,” which is listed on the sign at 4.159, whereas the 93 Octane is called something that ends with “A.” Ultra, maybe? There may be an explanation for this whole deal besides simple avarice, but that is not it.

  41. dover says:

    @christoj879

    I’m surprised it took so long for someone to suggest this and that you’re the only one so far.

    It’s easy… report the station to the department of weights and measures and then call the credit card company. The photo is pretty good proof, the OP will get back the 54 cents he was wrongly charged and the station will get what’s coming to them.

  42. dover says:

    @Myownheroine and PDX909:

    Disagree. If they pumped the wrong fuel, it would be $4.229, not $4.219.

  43. donkeyjote says:

    @Eldritch: Should have reported his ass. Or atleast told him you wanted to see his manager and scare the shit outta him.

    @ekthesy: Mountainside? Berkley Heights? Union County’s small, area wise, but that still a lot of gas just to get my windows cleaned :P

  44. donkeyjote says:

    @christoj879: That whole cash/credit thing is recent though (in my area), just a month old. Hess hasn’t changed though. (And BJ’s only takes credit anyway)

  45. digitalgimpus says:

    @AlteredBeast: If you get more than you requested (you asked for x dollars or gallons and got more). Call the police (use a non-emergency number!). It at one point was a common scam. They encourage full tanks since that means most money for the attendants efforts (pumping is the same effort for 1 gallon or 20).

    I remember in HS, people used to try and reverse scam by ONLY requesting dollar amounts for gas. They would only do $5, $10, or $20…. if the pumped amount was incorrect they would try and bust, hoping to get away with free gas. Not sure how many actually got away with it. I suspect only a few as the gas stations were all owned by a few very powerful businessmen who I doubt would put up with people making them look bad.

  46. unclescrooge says:

    I read some posts in here about being charged .04 before ever pumping a gallon of gas.We had this conversation in my barbershop a week ago.

    I am not an engineer nor a physicist but I suspect that gas prices are so high that before whenever you turned the pump on, it would pump a certain amount to fill the hose and that used to be less than a penny and probably wouldn’t register but now…gas is so expensive that the mere act of activating the pump is pushing .04 of gas through the hose to await you to pull the trigger to empty the hose contents into your tank.

    Or…it could be something more diabolical and i, for once, am guilty of being naive.

  47. that_matt says:

    hey all, been busy at work, and yes I’m that matt. I’ll be following the order of the commenters and reporting these guys. I’ll check back here to let you know what happened.

    Oh and I asked for a manager who would be around in “about an hour”. I was kind of in a hurry so I could stay, thus forcing the quick snapshot and blur (I held onto the receipt)

    @ekthesy:

    Nassau st in princeton by blue point grille (the fish restaurant)

  48. Marshfield says:

    @donkeyjote:

    I’m from NJ and old enough to remember:

    Free state maps anytime
    Free drinking glasses with fill up
    Tiger-in the tank tails
    ARCO Ark animals (the animals were free but you had to buy the ark)
    No such thing as “mini-serve” — it was one price and full service all the time.

    Yeah, and around that time gas was 34.9 cents per gallon.

  49. jerricab says:

    NJ gas stations are beginning to charge .04 – .08 cents on each dollar for people that pay with debit / credit cards instead of cash – becuase it takes up too much time to deal with debit / credit cards. I bet that is what happened here.

  50. Marshfield says:

    @donkeyjote:

    The cash/credit thing was popular about 20 yrs ago, and then for some reason it went away.

    I don’t understand why it’s back now. Just because gas is expensive, are the gas companies cutting the margins for the station owners or something?

  51. stevejust says:

    Guy should visit this website and file a complaint:
    [www.state.nj.us]

  52. stevejust says:

    Sorry, I thought the post ended with “what should he do.” You can delete my last comment as being the product of a failure to read the rest of the post after the jump.

  53. Not Alvis says:

    Wow – I live literally one block from this station.

  54. that_matt says:

    Answers:
    1.) I was in a hurry and couldn’t wait for “about an hour” for the manager to come in

    2.) The Sunoco is on Nassau st across from Blue Point Grille

    3.) I’ve submitted an official complaint using the links above (hurray power of the comments). I received a confirmation and I’m mailing a copy of the receipt tomorrow.

    Hopefully I will wield the sword of justice for all

    PS. sorry for the lack of info Meg, I decided to submit while I was at running around @work this morning

  55. that_matt says:

    ****comments will probably all come at once since none are going through right now.
    I pologize for the repeat

  56. bwcbwc says:

    @Myownheroine: Except $4.219 is not the same as $4.229. Remember that extra 9 at the end of gas prices.

  57. bwcbwc says:

    @Marshfield: It’s the combination of oil companies, competition between stations and CC merchant fees. Plus “Pay at the pump” takes away the opportunity to impulse-sell the customer a Coke from the fridge inside.

  58. Not Alvis says:

    For the OP: certainly report them, but in the future, get your gas at the Sunoco at the Harrison St. & Route One intersection, just 1.6 miles away. I got gas there yesterday for their advertised price, which is over $0.10 a gallon cheaper than the Nassau Street location anyway.

  59. Not Alvis says:

    @AlteredBeast: I’ve had the same type of problem getting a gallon of gas for my moped.

    I need to mix it with oil before filling the tank, so I keep a two-gallon container for it. I have a measured cup to provide a 50:1 mixture when added to exactly one gallon of gas.

    I’ve run across half a dozen gas station employees who will just stare at me stupidly when I ask for one gallon of gas. If gas is three ninety-something a gallon, they ask if I want four dollars of gas. “No, I want one gallon of gas.” Half the time they still try to round it out to the nearest dollar. And yeah – if they DO get it right, they’re unable, unwilling, or just too dumb to make change.

    What works the best is to carry exact change, round the gallon up to the nearest penny, hand them it in advance, and ask for exactly that much gas.

  60. GizmoBub says:

    At first glance I thought it was “Sorry, We don’t know my our PIMP is overcharging you.”

    That would have been a much more exciting story…

  61. akronharry says:

    Why are there no self-serve pumps in New Jersey? Does the State feel the the people can’t do it themselves or is this politics?

  62. MasterB8 says:

    contact the state Consumer Affairs Department, and the BBB. you’ll be amazed at how quickly the attendant will be able to answer all of your questions after you do that. had something similar happen out here in CA. i got a $50 gas card out of it. woohoo! 1 free tank of gas!