Question about gas pump not reading Zero

catherinetNovember 30, 2005

HI all,

I've noticed that at this one gas station in town, the pump never reads zero to start with. I think this morning it started at .08. This seems to only happen at this one gas station. I know 8 cents isn't much (on top of $50), but it bothered me. So I went in and asked the manager why it happens at his station. There was a "gasoline guy" there (he was from a gasoline company who was working with the manager to change over from Citco to Marathon).....anyhow.....he said this is real common. It just means that (especially in cold weather), the pump tubing from the pump to the nozle has to fill up first....and that's why it doesn't start at 0.

Why don't I see this at other stations? I have a paranoid nature, coupled with wanting things to make sense. Doesn't this sound weird? And shouldn't a pump always read 0, before you start pumping?? Isn't that like a scale not being at zero before you weigh something?

The manager was very obliging, and offered to give me the 8 cents, but I said no. It seemed silly.

Just curious if you've run into this too. Thanks.

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Not in the last 30 years. But I don't visit a lot of gas stations. I just stay with 1 or 2 in my local area. But over the years I have frequented 2 or 3 dozen and haven't seen it.
Call your division of weights & measure and have them check it out.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 3:45PM
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It's an interesting question. Maybe this comes from the fact that this is apparently an older pump with mechanical numbers that spin on wheels. The digital ones may have a more accurate way of accounting for the fuel sold and what's left in the hose or pumped into it at the beginning. Since you indicated that the starting reading on the pump varies (it's not at 8 cents every time), maybe there is some validity to what the people in the gas station said.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 4:18PM
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Pooh Bear

We used to have a station nearby that when you pumped the gas,
and you went in to pay for it, the price they had showing inside
was always a penny higher than the pump.
And it was only that one side of that one pump at that station.
The other side of the pump was fine and the other pumps were fine.
But that one nozzle was always wrong.

Pooh Bear

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 5:13PM
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I don't buy the answer you were given by the "gasoline" man. The pump's counter should always zero after the pump starts and the hose is full and just before dispensing fuel.

Many pumps that I freqent may show the last sale, but this is zeroed just before these begin to deliver fuel. Even the old mecahnical readouts zeroed the cost before begining to deliver fuel.

What may be happening is that on this pump, the fuel in the hose is siphoning back after the pump shuts off and partially draining the hose. It is being zeroed before the hose refills. In that case, you would be paying to refill the hose.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 5:59PM
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Thanks everyone,
I'm going to go back the next time and use the same pump and see if it does it again. I'm pretty sure this is the station that's been doing it for awhile.....but my memory isn't always the greatest, so I want to be sure. Would it be bad of me to tell the Department of Weights and Measures? Am I just being too picky?
Actually, now that I'm thinking about it, also in the past at this station, when I would pick up the nozzle to put into my gastank, it would spit out gas before it was even in my car, and charge me for it, even if I wasn't pressing on the trigger. I think they must be having some equipment problems. But when it comes to gasoline, I want every single penny's worth in my gastank!

    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 9:13PM
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Hi Catherine.

In fact the gas staion guy is partly correct, it had to do with the hose becoming pressurized, and as it does it expands. The problem is that the person that got gas just before you turned the pump off, and then squeezed the handle on the dispenser and bled the pressure off, and essentially stole 8 cents worth of gas from the next customer. I remember when gas was fifty to sixty cents it was not uncommon to see a dispenser flow one to two cents worth of fuel as it re-pressurized. I can also remember people that complained and while I had figured out what was happening, telling them and getting them to understand first of all didn't make them happy, because it was in their minds a lot easier to claim that the station was cheating them. Then on top of that, many of the "complainers" started doing the same thing on a regular basis! Sometimes they would break even if the person before them had depressurized the dispenser and hose. Sometimes they would get a few cents of "free" gas and rip off the next customer in the process.

The main thing here is it's the same old issue. The moment it comes to a tug of war for profit, which worrying about a dime is essentially part of, the business is going to lose no matter what. Even when it really isn't their fault and they aren't, or haven't done anything wrong.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2005 at 9:06AM
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Very interesting, John G, as I am one the wanna-be tightwads who has done, hundreds of times, what you have described.
And, of course, I never knew of the ramifications.
When refueling I hate to spill even a drop and usually do not...

Hard to understand why anyone would use a gas station where the equipment does nor function properly..

    Bookmark   December 1, 2005 at 10:29AM
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Thanks John,
I appreciate that explanation.
Earthworm, now that I know it might be an ongoing problem at that station I might not use it alot. Then again, if it's convenient, I don't mind losing 8 cents, especially if I can appreciate that it's not intentional on the gas station's part.
I doubt very few people even pick up on those things.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2005 at 6:10PM
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