CBS 58 Investigates: Problems at the Pump
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – Gas station complaints reviewed by CBS 58 Investigates showed consumers paying more than what was posted at the pump, pumping gas contaminated with water, and being wrongly charged for gas from pumps that were malfunctioning.
The complaints were filed between Sept. 1, 2018 and Sept. 1, 2019 with the weights and measures staff at the Milwaukee Health Department and Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection.
One Milwaukee woman who filed a complaint shared her video with CBS 58 Investigates. It showed the gas pump nozzle in the car, clicked off, but the meter continued to creep slowly up. The city inspector found a part had failed past the meter, allowing gas to run the meter, but not come out of the nozzle. The gas station bagged the pump as out of order and called a repair company to fix the problem.
Oak Creek resident Dan Endres called the state after he pulled up to a pump with hand labeled stickers over the price displays.
Endres said, “I couldn’t live with myself if I went off and somebody else got dinged and paid the wrong price.”
He showed CBS 58 Investigates a picture he snapped with the remains of the sticker on the pump. He had pulled it off and taken it inside the station questioning the prices.
Endres said, “I’ve traveled to the Northwoods where it’s mom and pop gas stations, and I’ve never seen stickers.”
The state inspection showed labels had been on three pumps with broken price displays. The gas station was given 30 days to fix the displays.
Weights and Measures Petroleum Inspector Jacob Schaefer said, “It’s a manual device, just like everything. It can break.”
Schaefer is one of the inspectors spread throughout the state trying to stay on top of thousands of pumps. He walked CBS 58 Investigates through a routine pump inspection at a Waukesha gas station.
Schaefer said, “This one is at zero, right on the money, that’s what we want to see,” as he pumped five gallons of diesel into his measuring cart. He makes sure pumps are calibrated to deliver within six cubic inches of the amount displayed on the screen. That’s roughly 6.5 tablespoons.
Schaefer said, “They are very accurate devices, they’re one of the most accurate devices in the market. Consumer confidence I believe is at like 98.7 percent.”
Schaefer also checks out all kinds of other problems. Pump price displays have to work and match the prices displayed on signs. If one sign displays a lower price than another Schaefer said the gas station, by law, is supposed to honor the lowest posted price. He also checks the math on the pumps and the condition of the underground storage tanks.
Schaefer said, “I’ll check to make sure there’s not water there, if there is that could be a penetration point.”
A water leak could spoil the gas flowing into a customer’s car. Milwaukee verified a complaint after a customer’s car broke down after filling up.
The complaints show inspectors ordered pumps fixed, signs update, and refunds issued. The inspections matter to consumers wallets. They don’t want to see meters running when the gas pump handles are off, or stickers in place of prices.
Endres said, “You know we’re paying a price for your product. You need to know what’s on the pump.”
Many cities maintain their own Weights and Measures staff to inspect gas pumps and certify they’re in good working order. To see that list click here. Consumer can also file complaints with DATCP, which will refer it along to the proper inspectors. Having receipts and photos or video of the problem can help resolve an issue in a customer’s favor.