Special Report: Protection at the Pump

Special Report: Protection at the Pump

COLUMBIA, Mo. - When you fuel up the car you assume you’re getting what you’re paying for. But how can you be sure?

One Columbia man has his suspicions, and now a video of what he calls “proof” that he’s been ripped off.

Kevin Boyer says he stopped to get gas at the Eagle Stop on Providence Road and I-70 in Columbia. He said, “I shut the pump off and I looked over and the pump kept running, but the nozzle was out of my car. So I grabbed my phone and started videoing.”

Boyer then brought that video to share with ABC 17 News. Boyer says he’s concerned. “How much money have I lost? How much money has other people lost?”

He said he repeatedly reported the issue, and is not pleased with the explanation. Boyer said he wasn’t happy with the company’s response. “They said, “Well, there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s because it’s cold,” said Boyer. He said, “If that was the case, every pump in town will be doing that.”

This time, he said he was called back by the owners of the station and pump number one was bagged and taken out of service.

When pump number one was back in service, ABC 17 News went to the same convenience store to test the pumps ourselves. We started with pump one, then pump three and I tried pump five. We couldn’t get the problem to replicate.

To be fair, the weather conditions were not the same. Boyer fueled up around 11 p.m. and took a screenshot of the temperature at that time of 33 degrees.

We unofficially tested the pumps at around 4:30 p.m. with a temperature in Columbia of right around 60 degrees.

So, ABC 17 News took this case to the people who do the official testing and scientific measurements.

John Albert is the program administrator with the Missouri Department of Agriculture Weights and Measures. He agreed to meet at the Eagle Stop in Jefferson City for an inspection walk-through. Before the walk-through, we showed him Kevin’s video.

When asked if he had ever seen anything like this issue, Albert said he had.

He told ABC 17 News all commercial pumps in the state are rigorously inspected.

Albert said, “When we complete that inspection we want to make sure that the totalizers, the electronic totalizer readings, are all in agreement. So will go and look at those. It has to match what the point of sale inside agrees with what we dispensed here as far as gallons and the amount.”

He confirmed that all fuel pump devices have a sort of odometer. He said, “It’s a continuously operational device from day one. The other thing is, we can do an audit trail on this device over and above the electronic wire seals. We can go and we can actually pull it up and it can tell us when this device was calibrated last, when it was put in calibration mode or weights and measures mode. So it’s really almost impossible, very difficult if not impossible, to manipulate any of the neutrality and that’s without us knowing about it.”

As for that the continuing rolling pump captured on video? Albert said there is a scientific explanation. Albert said, “When you see something creeping up like that after you’ve already stopped you dispensing, one of the things that can happen is consumers, as I said earlier, tend to think that they can shut the pump off and drain the hose, what’s the hanging hardware, and it leaves a void in there. What’s happening, this is called a wet hose system. It’s intended to maintain a complete liquid charge to this nozzle. So, when an anti-drain valve fails a little bit, it’s typical that happens in cold temperatures, they’re Viton, they’re rubber. They tend to get brittle like anything else does. So when that happens you have a small amount that goes out the nozzle and it’s trying to recharge that hose to that nozzle point so that we maintain a wet hose system. That product appears to have been discharged by that method and so that customer's actually getting what he paid for but it didn’t stop exactly what he intended.”

As logical as it may sound, Boyer said he is not entirely convinced, saying “It don’t add up. I’ve never, ever seen this before and I’ve had a lot of people contact me since I posted that video said that the same thing happened to them.”

ABC 17 News contacted the store’s corporate headquarters in Eldon. Tony Gier said he stands by the state’s inspection process and said his company has worked hard to build an honest reputation and would never rip off its customers.

Remember, before you fuel up, take a glance at the pump. Look for the inspection sticker. You can see when the pump was last inspected by the state ag department.

The department tells ABC 17 News that the compliance failure rate in Missouri is fewer than two percent of the fuel pumps.

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