Thursday, July 24, 2008

Throwing gasoline on the fire

I too have noticed, particularly at one stattion in New Braunfels, that after putting in your card and turning on the pump, yet you haven't started the gas flowing that the meter has already rung up 4 cents. It may not seem like a lot but multiply that by a 1000 refills a day and it is $40.00. That times 30 days a month becomes $1200 and a year it is roughly $15,000. For no reason and for no gas delivered.

You got a hundred stations like that it becomes an extra $1.5 million a year Baby!

State official: Fuel pumps "cheating drivers"
Peggy Fikac - Express-News

AUSTIN – Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said Tuesday an unprecedented investigation by his office found 58 percent of pumps under the banner of a single company were shortchanging consumers on gasoline.

At 15 of the 86 stations owned by Petroleum Wholesale LP, operating under the name Sunmart, Staples said every pump was "cheating drivers" on gasoline. More than half the pumps at another 32 stations were shortchanging customers, according to the Agriculture Department. Of a total 1,704 fuel pumps at all 86 stations, 990 were shortchanging customers, he said.

"At a time when families are struggling to purchase fuel, I am sure all Texans would agree with me that despicable violations such as these are repulsive and must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," said Staples, whose agency is responsible for checking gas pumps for accuracy.

Petroleum Wholesale general counsel Stuart Lapp, reached by telephone at the company’s headquarters at The Woodlands, didn’t have an immediate comment.

The problem pumps were shut down, and Staples said the company could face more than $100,000 in fines from his department after going through "due process." Staples said he also has referred the case to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott for possible further action.
Sunmart isn't alone in having pumps that don’t give customers the precise amount of gas for which they pay.

More than 5 percent of the 109,369 pumps inspected last year in Texas -- 5,778 of them -- either gave the wrong amount of gasoline or had other problems that put them out of commission until they were fixed.

Of those problem pumps statewide, almost 28 percent, or 1,612, shorted customers on gasoline beyond a small variance allowed by the state, according to Texas Department of Agriculture inspection data analyzed by the San Antonio Express-News and the Houston Chronicle for a story earlier in July.

That percentage reflects only inspection categories that measure gas output, not other problems that can affect pump accuracy and also potentially short the customer. Another 27 percent of the problem pumps statewide, or 1,575, doled out more gasoline than they should have.

Staples said most station owners are not trying to shortchange customers. Officials have noted that achieving perfection with mechanical devices wouldn’t, as a practical matter, be possible.
Staples said his investigators focused on Sunmart, however, because of "some egregious violation patterns that pointed to the possibility of a single retail fuel company intentionally shortchanging Texas drivers."

In the probe, dubbed "Operation Spotlight," investigators went to Sunmart’s stations for a look at all their pumps. The operation began Friday and ended late Sunday night.

"While these results are damaging enough, I believe the facts would have been even more incriminating had the company not dispatched a band of technicians, scurrying to get ahead of my team of inspectors, in order to recalibrate fault fuel pumps," Staples said at a Capitol news conference. "Sunmart obviously became aware of our blitz by midday Friday."

Petroleum Wholesale has stations across the state, including in Bexar County. The majority of its stations are in the Houston area, according to the Texas Department of Agriculture.