Kansas fuel inspectors say they receive the most complaints about gas pumps during the spring and early summer months. The top complaints made by consumers to the state have to do with accuracy, followed by reports about fuel quality problems.
"Personally, I drive around and look at the different stations' prices and opt to get the lowest per gallon price," said Kansas State Senator David Haley. "For anybody else who does that comparison shopping, you lose that savings once the pump is jumped."
Haley wasn't too happy after he stopped for gas at a station at North 13th Street and Quindaro Boulevard in Kansas City, KS, earlier this spring.
Haley says the pump jumped 10 cents before he even squeezed the handle.
"They said, 'we'll give you your dime back,' or whatever, but I said, 'that's not the point,'" Haley said.
Haley said he reported it to the station. The clerk offered a refund, but nothing was done to the pump.
"People will see me and share with me different places where it happens to them, it's probably not just one place where it's happening," Haley said.
That was when Haley contacted KCTV5 investigative reporter Eric Chaloux to look into the matter.
KCTV5 News made two trips to the station to purchase gas at the same pump that was giving Haley problems.
During one purchase, the pump jumped 4 cents. The next visit days later, the pump jumped once again by 4 cents.
Chaloux went into the gas station to alert the clerk to the pump jump problem.
"I just used your pump 1, and it jumped before I pumped any gas in," Chaloux said.
The clerk said he would let his boss know and kindly offered a refund for the pump jump.
At the time KCTV5 was at the station, there wasn't a bag placed over the problem pump.
Therefore, KCTV5 filed a complaint with the Kansas Department of Agriculture, the agency that oversees fuel station inspections.
An investigator was later dispatched to the station, and determined that it was a worn valve at the end of the nozzle that caused the pump to jump.
"They (valve) don't go all the way shut, which allows product to drain out of there. When the next person comes along, they turn on the device. If the hose has been drained a bit, it records a sale," said Lewis Hutfles, an inspector with the Kansas Division of Weights and Measures.
With high gas prices, drivers want to make sure what they pay for makes it into their tank.
KCTV5 discovered that it depends on where people live as to how often an inspector checks a pump for accuracy and quality.
If drivers fill up in Johnson or Wyandotte counties, the state has a private contractor who inspects all the pumps within 12 months.
For the rest of the Kansas counties around the metro, an inspector only checks the pumps once every 18 months. There are eight inspectors, including five state workers and three contractors, to inspect the state's 31,804 pumps at 1,980 gas stations.
The National Conference on Weights and Measures found that during July 2010 through June 2011, Kansas inspectors found a number of miscalculated pumps.
If those corrections had not been made, consumers would have spent nearly $2.3 million on gas they never received.
For the state of Kansas to close a gas pump, there is plus or minus of a six-cubic inch tolerance of gas that basically breaks down to around half a cup of fuel either extra or short before it is shut down.
"I mean it's pretty strict, and it's amazing they do hold it, there are some that do need to be calibrated from time to time," Hutfles said.
In Missouri, gas pumps are checked more often. Under state statue inspectors check every pump, once every six months.
A Missouri Department of Agriculture spokeswoman told KCTV5 that the state has an out-of-tolerance pump rate of 1.94 percent with 64 percent in favor of the consumer, for an estimated additional value of $1 million per year for the consumer.
After Haley's experience, he feels that every consumer needs to be on alert at the pumps for any possible problems.
"Vigilance is important for the consumer," he said. "The consumer really has to pay attention wherever you are."
Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.
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