Monday, January 30, 2017

The Pump Trumps Trump - column

Mack Hall, HSG

The Pump Trumps Trump

Enough about the president. Let us discuss adventures in buying gasoline along US96.

Last week I bought gasoline at an area station (let us call it Sooper Dooper Gas ‘n’ Cigarettes ‘n’ Lottery Tickets).

When I completed the transaction the pump said that I had bought 11.603 gallons of gas at $2.199 a gallon for a total of $25.51.

However, the ticket the same pump printed out said that I had bought 11.421 gallons of gas at $2.199 for a total of $25.11

Why the differences?

I snapped pictures of the pump readout and the ticket printout, and took them inside to the clerk to ask what this was about, how much gas did I really get, and how much would I be billed. She was very nice about it all, and printed from an inside machine a ticket that agreed with the pump’s readout, and asked to keep the ticket the pump had printed.

In a happier world I would have dismissed this as merely a machine error involving a few cents, but now I don’t know. Did someone fiddle with the pump or the two printers or all of these gadgets in order to realize an extra helping of cash from hundreds of such small errors – if they are errors – in a day?

I don’t know.

I do know that for me (a sampling of somewhat less than a hundred consumers), buying gasoline from different stations (another sampling of somewhat less than a hundred) associated with different companies along US96 has been, well, interesting in the past few months.

A station at which I bought gas for years stopped accepting credit cards at the pumps months ago. Signs said that the company was reworking the computer programming or something, but nothing changed. I did not suspect anything, but after some weeks chose to shop at other stations where I could pay at the pump and not walk away from the car.

But shopping elsewhere revealed the same problems. Other stations (some, not all) representing different oil companies, also had card readers that were not working. One clerk wanted me to leave my credit card with him while I gassed the car.

Well, no, that ain’t happening. You just don’t leave your card in the hands of someone else. You just don’t.

I have also noticed that some gas pumps at different stations reveal that access plates have been forced open (, that the keypads have been separated from the pump, or that the required state inspection seals are missing (

Any one of these curious matters in isolation would probably not be significant, but a pattern of curious matters is.

Even when nothing appears to be irregular the gas customer should always:

1. Keep the credit card in hand or in sight. It takes only seconds for a bad actor to scan the code on your card on a clever little reader concealed in his pocket or palm ( or under the counter.
2. Pull on the card reader to ensure it is not a shell overlay stealing your code (
3. Insist on a receipt – don’t ignore that “See Cashier for Receipt” sign.
4. Keep all your receipts and match them with your monthly statement.
5. Take a picture of the pump and the numbers every time you buy gas. Take pictures of any loose bits or damages to the pump.
6. Compare the numbers on the receipt and the pump before you drive away.
7. Don’t let the gas gauge fall below empty before shopping for gas. If you’re down to an empty tank then you’re out of choices and can’t drive away from a dodgy gas station.
8. Try not to be cynical – and sometimes that’s a challenge.


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