Some Gas Pumps Can't Charge Over $4/Gallon

Posted: May 07, 2008 10:22 a.m.

If gas goes over $4 per gallon, you might be able to find a deal by searching out the oldest gas station you can find. 

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer explains, "As gas prices rise, some stations with older pumps are encountering an unexpected challenge: They can't be set to charge more than $3.99 9/10 per gallon."  Some older pumps aren't capable of charging more -- the price display window on the pumps themselves doesn't go display anything higher. Lou Engles of Engels Repair and Towing in Vashon Island, Washington, told the P-I that when he bought his station's pumps "in 1995, nobody could imagine gas would ever be higher than $3.99 a gallon."

Autoblog notes, "These pumps were produced before everything went digital and you could simply slide your AmEx into the little slot to pay for your premium petrol. They use a mechanical computer with gears to calculate the price of gas, and the cost of retrofitting them to account for the current reality of $4+/gallon gasoline amounts to $8,500 in upgrades according to one station owner, if he could even find the parts since they're all on back order."

Earth Times reports "About 12 other stations, mostly rural, have been reported as having the same problem as Engels."

The Post-Intelligencer says Engels is "handling the situation by posting the correct price on large signs, then explaining to each customer -- before pumping -- that the amount pumped must be multiplied by the current price."  However, Kirk Robinson of Washington state's Weights and Measures program notes, "Operating pumps that don't display and tally the correct price is unlawful."  For now, his office is allowing the work-around if older stations "can show they're making a good-faith effort to get a retrofit done."

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