Letter To Wisconsin Department Of Weights And Measures Results In Victory

Reader Gabe writes in to tell us that he reported a gas station to the Wisconsin Department of Weights and Measures because he noticed that the pump started charging him before he ever pulled the trigger.

Turns out that the state investigated Gabe’s story, then sent him a follow up letter thanking him for his complaint.

“Thank you for submitting your complaint about Mian’s Mobil. Citizen complaints like yours often alert us to problems in our community and serve as a valuable tool in our efforts to ensure fairness in the marketplace. In this case, a problem was found with pump #2 regular,” says the letter.

It goes on to describe the investigation and then thanks Gabe for his help.

“Your complaint has served a valuable function in the detection of unfair business practices. Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention. Please contact me again should the need arise or if you have any questions.”

Isn’t that nice? We love the Wisconsin Department of Weights and Measures!


Victory For Consumer [WriteLarge]


Edit Your Comment

  1. IphtashuFitz says:

    Interesting how the letter outlined the specifics steps taken by the inspector.

  2. Munsoned says:

    @IphtashuFitz: It’s probably because that’s the only letter that the Wisc. Dept. of Weights and Measures has written to a citizen in the past decade.

  3. unklegwar says:

    It’s nice to see what they did. Beats “Thanks for your letter, we fixed it.”

    I know I’d feel better knowing a little about the process involved. It allows you to verify that the approach was reasonably sound and that some sort of payola didn’t occur.

  4. Freedomboy says:

    Gee folks and on the day an actual election is happening to move us towards real CHANGE in the way govenment is both used and is seen by our citizenry, we have an excellent example of actual good government applying rules and fairness and all that book stuff.


    Kind of makes it all seem worthwhile a bit huh?

  5. protest says:

    you know what would be even more awesome? if state departments of weights and measures inspected gas pumps more than twice a year. or maybe this is only happening in pennsylvania?

  6. Skeptic says:

    Well, now that Weights and Measures has weighed in, it is time to follow up again with the retailer and demand a refund for their knowing fraud–with the Weights and Measures letter and prior letters to the retailer in hand.

  7. Myotheralt says:

    But what about the extra money that the gas station charged this guy?

  8. Skeptic says:

    …although from the letter, the pump only had “slight meter creep,” so the refund may be rather small. Funny, the amount the OP was overcharged was never mentioned, so I’m guessing it was rather small.

  9. lincolnparadox says:

    I dont know about Pennsylvania, but in Iowa we have like 8 inspectors for the whole state. Were lucky if they make it around twice a year.

  10. TheDude06 says:

    This is the same department that started fining the local trader joes for selling individual bananas last year. WI state law requires that bananas be sold by weight only.

    TJ’s stopped carrying bananas altogether after being investigated. how absurd!

  11. felixgolden says:

    I called the New York department on a gas station in Yonkers, NY near a busy office park after my car managed to take 2 more gallons than the maximum capacity even counting the reserve. And I had a quarter of a tank when I started. I said something to the cashier but he just blew me off.

    The price was already high, so most people probably didn’t fill up there on a regular basis to notice.

    A few days later there was a big article in the local paper because it was more than simply a broken pump. All the pumps were altered.

  12. catskyfire says:

    I can say that many states allow local cities to handle some inspections. (For example, if a large city has food inspections that are equal or more stringent than state standards, the state will make a deal to use the city ones, saving inspectors for less populated areas.)

    And this is a good example of why we HAVE weights and measures departments. Because there are cheaters out there. I’m reminded of the Norman Rockwell picture, where there’s a turkey or something on the scale. The customer has a finger under it, and the butcher a finger on top, both trying to cheat the other.

  13. AD8BC says:

    @Freedomboy: Naah. Nothing is going to change with this election. Not until we get ALL of those nuts out.

    But it’s nice to think that way.

  14. Laffy Daffy says:

    Several years ago at an Amoco gas station in Illinois there was a pump that kept going for a moment after the trigger released (it was the old style pump with the numbers on wheels or discs similar to slot machines). After my complaint prompted a “too bad” from the attendant, I told him I wasn’t going to pay and after a few more words he called the police. A squad car with two officers arrived a few minutes later (lights blazing and siren howling, by the way) and after hearing both sides of the story suggested I contact the state weights and measures department, saying that I would be charged with theft if I didn’t pay the entire amount. They even put me in the back of the squad car but because I wasn’t cuffed I figured they were just trying to scare me.

    Sure enough, one cop came out of the station a minute later and told me the attendant would take $1 off the pump price if I let it go. I agreed, paid my bill minus the $1 and left. The next day I wrote a letter to the weights and measures division and a month or so later received a reply. The letter said no action had been taken yet because the department wanted me to be aware that IF THE PUMP WAS FOUND NOT TO BE FAULTY I WOULD BE FINED $75! I replied that I was confident of the malfunction and to go ahead with the inspection.

    I never heard from the state again and never went back to that Amoco, though I passed it twice a day to and from work. One Monday morning several months later I was surprised to see the station closed. I thought maybe it was because of me and thought I had struck a blow for the little guy, but a week or so later I learned the owner hit it big in the lottery and was on permanent vacation in Hawaii.

    So much for karma.

  15. MonsieurBon says:

    I remember a few years back there was a big scam in the L.A. metro area where an owner of dozens of gas stations altered all of his pumps so that it cheated you EXCEPT when it reach 5-gallon amounts. This kept the inspectors from figuring it out for a long time. They were programmed to bill correctly and dispense correctly close to 5-gallon increments, but cheat you the rest of the time. That sounds really complicated, but I guess it made him a ton of money.

  16. RagingBoehner says:

    I once put about 5 and a half gallons into a five gallon jimmy can at a “Liberty” gas station. Think about it.

  17. DrGirlfriend says:

    @ErnieMcCracken: And not only that, they were writing with good news! What an exciting day!

  18. kittenfoo says:

    maybe it’s urban myth, but i’ve heard you don’t mess around with the weights and measures department. apparently the gas station owners REALLY don’t want trouble with them. i applaud the guy in wisconsin and wish i’d done the same. a few years ago i used a pump in my town that filled up my empty tank with almost 12 gallons – in a 10 gallon tank.

  19. SarcasticDwarf says:

    For what it is worth, I have found that it is very easy to locate individuals at government agencies in Wisconsin. Most states force you to call a department number and will forward you to whoever they think is appropriate. Wisconsin tends to encourage you to find the exact person you need (numbers are all available on department web pages).

  20. Gopher bond says:

    @kittenfoo: It’s not an urban myth, it’s common sense. I mean, sure the Department of Weights and Measures has a job to do but a citizen making a detailed complaint about a specific location is free golden publicity. It’s like a writing to a local news journalist about a massive fraud and cover-up in the State Government and providing files and books and photos as proof. You don’t pass up an easy story.

  21. KogeLiz says:

    haha, yeah, really.

  22. StevieD says:


    Yes cheaters work on both sides of the counter. The state W&M boards were created to protect BOTH parties from intentional acts.

  23. Hawk07 says:

    So, when these inspectors go around and test the pumps, what do they do with the gas that’s pumped out? Do they just throw the gas in their personal cars?

  24. jamesdenver says:

    I’m sure they actually have some sort canister. Like a giant measuring cup or something.

  25. r4__ says:

    @RagingBoehner: x-gallon tanks hold slightly more than x gallons so that people who run two-stroke engines can add oil to the can without overflowing it.

  26. S-the-K says:

    The first thing I noticed is that they didn’t take the complaint seriously. I mean, what the heck! Nowhere in the letter did it say that they were taking the matter seriously. Does that mean they, y’know, actually did something other than taking it seriously? Whoever heard of a huge bureaucracy not taking complaints seriously? I mean, really!

  27. calvinneal says:

    Another Urban Myth; We don’t need government oversight! The markets will regulate themselves.