There’s 4 main ways a gas pump can screw you over:
1. Meter Jump
You go to put gas in but before you pull the nozzle switch, there’s already a dollar amount on the meter. This usually happens because some part inside is worn out. When you hit the activation switch it’s supposed to recharge itself with a bit of gas, but when meter jump occurs, the meter is charging you for the gas that’s charging the system.
2. Meter Creep
The nozzle clicks off because it thinks the tank is full, but the machine keeps adding pennies even though no gas is flowing.
3. Short Volume
Can happen for a number of reasons, but essentially the pump is not pumping as much gas it says it is.
4. Big Sign, Little Price, But Little Sign, Bigger Price This is when the big sign facing the road shows a lower price than is on your pump or on your receipt. With gas prices fluctuating the way they do these days, this usually happens because the gas station didn’t get a chance to change the sign yet.
The reality is that consumers are not getting shafted at the pump that much, and of them, the first three we mentioned are the most common.
- Stats from the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures:
66,000 fuel devices statewide
22,000 device inspections per year
9% of inspections find actionable problems
1-2% of the inspections find pumps shorting the customers
“Meters and gas pumps wear out and parts need to be replaced, a gas pump is a pretty complicated piece of equipment,” said Steve Meissner, Communications Director of the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures.
However, If you notice any discrepancy, you should bring it up with the store. If they don’t fix the problem or you don’t like their answer, contact your local weights and measures department. They will take complaints by phone, email or letter. They investigate every complaint and if you request it, they will let you know the exact results of their inspection.
How do you know if there’s a discrepancy? One commenter Verdigris use this technique: “…fill your tank by stopping at the 10 gallon mark. If the price is ten times the amount of 1 gallon, you know you aren’t getting screwed. I tend to keep my eye on the price when it gets around 10 gallons every time I fill up.”
RELATED: Keeping the pumps on time [Contra Costa Times]