"Meter Creep" at the gas pump

By Aaron Gilchrist - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

DINWIDDIE, VA (WWBT) - Right now, regular gas in Richmond and tri-cities is about 30-cents more expensive than it was a year ago, on average. But how certain are you that you're getting all the gas you're paying for?

Most of us are not watching the meter on the pump every single second we're at the gas station. Lucy Coleman was and what she saw really revved her engine.

Lucy Coleman needed to make a quick pit stop to gas up before she left Dinwiddie early on the morning of September 17th. She pulled into the East Coast Gas Station on Boydton Plank Road and pulled out her check card as usual.

"I put in it and I hit the button, pushed for the type of fuel I wanted. And I picked up it and it just started.  And I was like why is this thing running?" said Lucy.

Lucy says the meter immediately advanced to a charge of 11-cents.

"I laid the pump, the nozzle on the ground, it went to 15 cents," she said.

Lucy never pumped any gas and let the clerk now what happened and eventually got her 15-cents back, but when friends told her about similar problems at the same gas station, Lucy called 12.

"My question is how many pumps, how many people are getting ripped off?"

We turned to the state Office of Product and Industry Standards with that question. Its inspectors are tasked with making sure you don't pay for a product you're not getting.

"They don't do that. Usually it's failure of the component," said Milt Hargrave, Virginia Office of Product and Industry Standards.

It just so happens that this east coast station had a random inspection four days after Lucy was there.  The pump she used was rejected for "meter creep".

"That means that the display is indicating delivery but no product coming out of the nozzle," said Hargrave.

Hargrave let us watch as the meter was re-inspected. East Coast met its obligation of hiring a state-certified technician to repair the problem by replacing a valve. As we watched a series tests, pump seven, checked out ok and received its seal of approval.

"If we get an individual complaint, we'll go on site and investigate the complaint. Do whatever testing we need to do to duplicate the customer's symptoms of their complaint to check the different components that could cause it," he said.

Peace of mind for Lucy Coleman, so she can pump and go without pause.

If you do notice a gas pump meter rolling before you pump, leave the pump where it is, go inside and address the problem with the store clerk. Hargrave says if you're not satisfied with the response file, a complaint with his office and it will be investigated.  For more info, visit the Virginia Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

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