Gas Pump Report Card

July 28, 2008 8:42:47 PM PDT
ABC7 found hundreds of gas pumps all over Chicagoland that have been shut down for shorting customers.If you don't already, this story will have you looking closely when you pump gas. ABC7 found several gas stations that had a high number of pumps taken out of service for gypping the driver out of a share of gas. Other pumps got shut down for charging consumers before any gas was pumped.

With area gas prices above $4 a gallon, people are watching every cent. But ABC7 found pumps that were costing you extra.

Under the Freedom of Information Act ABC7 obtained recent city of Chicago and state of Illinois gas pump inspection records.

Gas pumps are inspected at least once a year. If they pass, they get a dated seal. Pumps also get inspected if a consumer reports a complaint to inspectors. You can look closely to see if the price is rolling before you squeeze the gas pump or if it keeps rolling when you stop.

In June, at the Citgo at 1345 N. Pulaski in Chicago, city inspectors cited the owner for two pumps charging consumers money before gas was dispensed! One pump charged 15 cents and another charged .64 cents before consumers pumped a drop.

The manager says it was a mechanical problem and he paid thousands of dollars to fix it.

"Yes, I will be watching now," said customer Clarence Young.

City records showed about a half-dozen other gas stations also recently received similar citations in the previous six months. Records from the last 12 months across the Chicago suburbs show that Illinois inspectors closed at least one pump at more than 500 gas stations.

"If we find a problem with the device, it is shut down on the spot," said Bob Pankala, inspector, Illinois Department of Agriculture.

State inspectors use a sensitive measuring device to test pumps, and they close them if they're shorting the consumer by six cubic inches. That's about 1/4 of a can of soda.

Records show that happened at s Shell in Orland Park at 151st and S. Harlem. During an annual inspection in November, inspectors shut down 19 pumps for being, what they called, "out of tolerance," or short changing the consumer on gas. Another 11 were closed and categorized as "rejected." That means they were either charging consumers before gas was pumped or after the pumping stopped. "Rejected" can also mean that the pump price display did not match the gas station's main sign price or that the pump was leaking.

"These pumps are a little old. As for us trying to rip off the consumer, that's no way what the situation is," said manager Sam Haddad.

The manager says pumps were repaired days after the incident, and a recent follow report shows two pumps were shut down for giving away too much gas. When customer Kathleen Pate heard that, she laughed and asked, "Which two?"

At a Thorton's at 5900 South Harlem in Summit in March, 13 pumps were deemed "out of tolerance" and closed for shorting consumers. And another seven were closed and placed in that "rejected" category. A manager says they were fixed immediately.

And it is worth repeating that, yes, pumps also sometimes get closed for dispensing too much gas. So in some cases, gas stations are losing out.

Depending on the violation, gas station managers have to sometimes pay fines If you have a complaint about a gas station, you can report it to the city of Chicago Consumer Services or the Illinois Department of Weights and Measures.

Illinois Dept. of Agriculture Weights & Measures
800-582-0468.

City of Chicago Consumer Services
(312) 744-4006


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