Discover Card And The Tale Of The $502.55 Tank Of Gas

If a gas pump ever accidentally charges you $502.55 for 17 gallons of gas, you’d expect to be able to quickly and easily challenge that charge with your credit card. Unfortunately for James Maddux of Collinsville, OK, it wasn’t that simple.

From KJRH:

It gives you a sinking feeling when the gas tank is on empty and filling up will cost more than fifty bucks. James Maddux was prepared for that when he pulled up to pump number six at Miller’s Sinclair Station in Collinsville. He pumped $52.54 worth of gasoline into his tank. But he had to pay $502.55 for 17 and a half gallons of gasoline. He says “That’s just the way it worked out and unfortunately I got zapped.”

The receipt clearly shows the simple math mistake. 17 and a half gallons of gas at $2.999 a gallon came to a heart-stopping $502.55

Getting the charges reversed should have been as easy as faxing the receipt to Discover, but of course it wasn’t. The charge kept getting reserved and then reassessed over and over again, until Mr. Maddux finally reported his issue to the president of the local BBB. The BBB president told the local media and Mr. Maddux finally got some answers after four months of arguing with Discover.

Beyond the proof in black and white we took a camera to pump number six at Miller’s station. Brinkley begins to fill up, then, the pump automatically shuts off at 75-dollars. It’s physically impossible to pump a drop, or a penny, more in without re-swiping the credit card. Brinkley says “So it’s going to be really hard for anyone to justify a bill of $502.”

Lowry [consumer reporter for KJRH] contacted both Sinclair Oil and Discover Card with the proof and Maddux says in less than a week “It happened pretty quick.” He got a call from Mark Courtney, the owner of Miller’s Sinclair station, asking him to come pick up a check, for $450.01

A Sinclair Oil spokesperson says the company was never told there was a dispute over the amount charged to Maddux’s card, only whether his card was used at pump number six. That’s what they confirmed to Discover.

Consumers should keep in mind that if they are ever overcharged or notice any irregularities at a gas station they can contact their state’s Department of Weights and Measures. You’d be surprised at the consumer heroics that may ensue. Tell ’em The Consumerist sent you.

the $500 Fill Up [KJRH]
(Photo: beebo wallace )


Edit Your Comment

  1. B says:

    Shouldn’t the customer have contacted the gas station first, instead of not at all, as what appeared to have happened here?

  2. Wow, every time I’ve ever needed anything from Discover, they’ve been extremely helpful and compliant–including temporary, immediate reversals of disputed charges.

    They’re the only card I’ve kept for more than 5 years (using them since 1997)

  3. malcs says:

    poor guys. here in the UK it would cost $175 to fill the same tank at a normal price!!!

  4. malcs says:

    aw. here in the UK it would only cost the equivalent of $175 to fill the same tank!

  5. Meg Marco says:

    @B: He did, they told him to talk to Discover.

  6. Buran says:

    @B: He tried. They sent him to the credit card issuer.

    What I want to know is why the hell they kept reversing their credits when he had clear-cut proof that it was a mistake. It should have been backed out and left backed out. And how can they find NOT in his favor when he has such clear proof!?

    Glad I decided not to sign up with Discover if this is how they treat you when you’re overcharged 10x!

  7. ThomFabian says:

    Why in the world wouldn’t the gas station fix the problem themselves. Simply credit back the over charge, and problem solved.

  8. I am guessing this was hand punched in, as on the keypads, 0 is close to the 2. I don’t think this was a pump as the system in the pump pre-auths you for $75(used to be $50 when I pumped gas), and won’t let you go over. If you “cash” or “pay inside” pump it, you can go beyond the $75. I also find it hard to believe that the central computer in the station messed up and printed only one bad receipt. If he checked his receipt when he left, I don’t see how this could have gone so long.

  9. evslin says:

    @ThomFabian: See, the problem with that is that it makes too much sense. We can’t have that.

  10. darkryd says:

    I wonder how much money the average consumer has blown on extra fees, overcharges, penalties, etc. by using credit cards.

    It just seems like so much money blown on absolutely nothing.

    Let’s all go back to using cash for any purchase under $100!

    That way we all help to avoid the hassles of problems like this.

  11. howie_in_az says:

    @malcs: Don’t you have something to boil?

  12. johnva says:

    @darkryd: In my case, $0.

  13. heavylee-again says:

    Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see any simple math mistake.

  14. strells says:

    This story would be a lot clearer if it explained what the “math mistake” was: he was charged $29.99 (not $2.999 as it says in the story) for 17.5 gallons to get the $502 amount. However, I still don’t see how this could have happened with an automated pump unless the station attendant had to do this manually.

    Despite this, I think people are going to head to OK if they can still get $3 gas somewhere!

  15. Nighthawke says:

    Stickers are starting to show up on pumps stating that “This pump has been tested and certified by a 3rd party”. And the BWM sticker showed the pump was last tested in 2005. I just about called the state just on the principle of the old seal.

  16. ohiomensch says:

    I had an issue with a gas pump that continued to run after I had put the nozzle back on the pump. It was only another 6 cents, and the clerk refused to refund the money. I called the county auditor, they came out and checked the pump and the auditor told me that the owner offered to give me the 6 cents back if I went back to the station.

  17. theblackdog says:

    @ThomFabian: Who knows why, but I also imaging the phone calls from Discover to the gas station went like this:

    Discover: Hi, some asshole is disputing his charge at your station and trying to deprive us of money that we think we totally deserve. Did Maddux use pump number 6 on this date?

    Station Person: Yup he sure did.

    Discover: Thanks, we’re going to go continue to collect the money he owes us.

  18. @ohiomensch: I would have made him mail it to me.

  19. blackmage439 says:

    So, instead of disputing the charge with the gas station, I.E. following standard procedure, he tries going straight to Discover? I know you SHOULD be able to do that, but why bother causing your credit card company trouble first? The oil companies receive more money in the sale than the station does. Something tells me they might be receptive to help.

  20. Sifl says:

    I work at a Service Station and we have the ability to go back a good 24 hours in the system to retrieve a reciept. If this occured and the person contacted us within 24 hours, we’d nab the reciept and we’d be calling our own head office over this issue and getting weights and measurements down ourselves and a pump repair crew out. I can’t say what the company could do to help the person, but I know I’d be supportive of their fight. In Canada, it’s just been passed that a gaff like this? $10,000 fine! [I kid you not!] If it’s off.. I believe 50 cents every 100L or so.. then we’d be up a creek and $10k poorer.. so yeah.

    I feel bad this guy got screwed around so hard. Our pump limits are $100 unless you pay inside. [Which you practically have to do today due to motorhomes and SUV’s at these prices]

  21. MayorBee says:

    Oh, they corrected the error? Just think of that Discover Cash Back Bonus he forfeited!

  22. Buran says:

    @blackmage439: RTFA.

  23. JollyJumjuck says:

    Don’t worry. In a few years, that will be the ACTUAL price of 17 gallons of gas.

  24. Trai_Dep says:

    Hey, you buy a Hummer, you take your licks.

  25. MaxSmart32 says:

    @Ash78: Hey, who let you out of Jalopnik?

  26. Consumer007 says:

    They are right about that – you call the State Weights and Measures division if a place ever doesn’t have stickers on the pumps and they’ll be shut down for weeks – guaranteed. (I did this very successfully in Houston one day.)

  27. @Consumer007:

    No weight inspection sticker?

    The station can’t farking open without being inspected prior to getting an occupancy permit from the city.

    That means the sticker fell off ….. or was tampered with.

    Fell off is an act of God. No big deal.

    Tampered? Go to jail without bread and water.

    You are right, them State Weight and Measure boys are all powerful and darn good protectors of the consumers.

  28. marsneedsrabbits says:


    Let’s all go back to using cash for any purchase under $100!
    That way we all help to avoid the hassles of problems like this.

    What you said. At this point, going out to eat & small purchases should be done with cash. The better to secure the card – the less it is used, the less potential for abuse.

    If it is an appliance or a large purchase that would benefit from the extended warranty many cards offers, that makes more sense.

  29. Major-General says:

    For Oklahoma it’s the Corporation Commission.

  30. dragonfire81 says:

    I may be able to shed some light on why the credits kept reversing.

    At Sprint we had what was called a “Temporary credit” sometimes used if charges were in dispute. What would happen is a sent amount (for example $100) would be removed from your account for a certain number of days (in most cases 7) to allow for dispute resolution (either the approval or denial of a permanent credit). If the permanent credit was denied, the temporary of course would reverse itself in 7 days and charge the $100 back to the customers account.

    I suspect that’s what was going on here.

  31. Wait… I thought chargebacks fixed everything?!?

  32. NoWin says:

    ….yeah, he should have gone to the station first, becuase they could have credited it right there.

    Most people (me included) wouldn’t stop to think if the stations pump and metering system was wrong, going to the card company will not resolve the problem. Thus, when Disc wanted confirmation of the receipt (albeit in error) from the fuel company for a credit-back, they were getting the same erronoeus confirmation from the fuel distributor. Thus, no credit.

  33. NoWin says:

    ….and I’m not blaming the OP! ….just saying his avenue of recourse was a bit off target…

  34. DynamicBits says:

    @Ash78: I’ll second that. Having dealt with other cards in the past, it has been years since I’ve used anything but my Discover card. I’m very surprised by this story. Discover has been nothing but helpful when I’ve had problems.