Gas station makes dramatic changes after 13News investigates

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by David Ham

WVEC.com

Posted on May 11, 2012 at 4:05 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 8:35 PM

NORFOLK -- A local gas station made drastic changes to all of its pumps after 13News found a gas pump glitch called "pump jumping" at the location.

The Sentry station on Monticello Avenue pulled all of its plus and premium gas hoses from the location after 13News first aired the story.
 
"The morning after your report aired, we checked the site and found that the pump jumping issue did not apply to our regular unleaded hoses.  We were; however, able to duplicate the pump jumping issue on a few of the premium unleaded hoses. The problem appeared to be sporadic as a premium hose would jump or add five cents to the total transaction and then add nothing to the next transaction on the same hose.  It would seem that jumping would not occur if the premium hoses were used more often to keep the cut off valve seals lubricated," said Lance Bailey of Parker Oil Company that owns the Sentry gas station.
 
When we first visited the station, one of the pumps charged us 14 cents for .033 gallons of unleaded fuel.  We returned two weeks later to find that the same pump charged 5 cents for .011 gallons of gas.
 
At a BP Station on East Brambleton Avenue, one of the pumps jumped 31 cents for .075 gallons of gasoline. When we returned, the problem appeared to be fixed.
 
The largest pump jump we found was at a Valero station on Chesapeake Boulevard. The meter ran to $1.42. The station tied an old grocery bag around the malfunctioning nozzle, later taped an "out of service" sign on the meter, and then put a red bag over the nozzle. We checked in with the gas station several times and they could not tell us when the broken pumps would be fixed.
 
At all three stations, we experienced the glitch with premium fuel hoses.
 
"We chose to remove the premium and midgrade hoses at this site in order to protect our customers from a sporadic problem of our industry caused by a little used fuel," said Bailey.
 
He estimated the station only sold about 40 gallons of plus or premium gasoline a week.
 
"We get a fairly high number of complaints related to pump jump," said Milton Hargrave, of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Weights and Measures division.
 
He says it can happen at meters that aren't properly maintained.
 
"It's usually caused on a leak on the discharge side of the meter at adjoining hose where the hose and nozzle screw together," said Hargrave.
 
The state couldn't give us an exact number of pump jump-related complaints it receives but said that about a third of all of the complaints for pump jump are legit.
 
If a complaint is verified, officials could condemn the meter and shut it down until the problem is fixed.
 
At the Sentry gas station, Bailey said removing the plus and premium pumps was voluntary. 
 
"We are an 85-year-old company that takes pride in providing quality petroleum products and services to our customers. We thank you for bringing this issue to our attention," added Bailey.
 
Hargrave says you can avoid becoming a victim.   Always make sure the screen on the dispenser lights up and that it always starts with zeros.
 
If you have any issues, contact the VDACS Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-552-9963.

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