RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - We all do it just about every week: pump gas. But who's watching to make sure you aren't getting ripped off? Numerous gas stations in our area have not been inspected in years.
We all watch our dollars tick away at the pump, but Brian Crowder pays closer attention than most. He pumps gas just about every day.
"Making sure that everything on this pump is working like it's supposed to," said Crowder.
Crowder is just one of 24 inspectors statewide making sure you get what you paid for.
"I feel like having an opportunity to keep our eye on and monitor what's going on ... keeps everybody on a fair playing field," said Crowder.
The 24 inspectors cover 95,527 gas dispensers, so it's no wonder we found pumps across Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield overdue for inspections.
We found a station in Richmond that had not been looked over since February 2013. We found inspection stickers dating back to March, August and October 2014. We even discovered stations where the stickers were removed.
We took our findings to the program manager at the state Department of Agriculture's Division of Weights & Measures.
"Just like in any other department, we have personnel and staffing issues and turnover and short-term and long-term disability issues that come into play," said Joel Maddux.
Maddux says they try to get to every pump once every two years. Though staffing issues made surprise inspections difficult in 2016, his office still investigated 475 complaints and checked over 70,000 gas station measuring devices.
"We want to respond. We want to help the consumer. We want to protect them. We want to make sure they are getting what they pay for," said Maddux.
His inspectors have the power to put a pump out of commission. They test the gasoline for water. They watch to make sure the price doesn't change or that the meter rolls before or after pumping to find out how often pumps are cited.
We dug through hundreds of inspection reports for Central Virginia -- 43 percent of stations had to be re-inspected last year for a variety of violations. It can be as simple as a bad display, leaky hose or missing sticker, but 12 percent were cited for giving out the wrong amount of gas.
It's not always bad for the driver - most of those violations were not for shortchanging customers but for giving away more gas than the pump showed.
Lawmakers just expanded the agency's budget. It's hiring three new people and buying new equipment so inspectors like Crowder have an easier time making sure everyone follows the rules.
"To have a hand in making sure people get a fair shake," said Crowder.
You probably see the stickers all the time and never think twice about it. The sticker shows the number you should call if you notice an issue at a gas station or think you're not getting what you paid for: 804-786-2476. They respond to complaints at the pump in just 72 hours.
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