Getting Ripped off at the Gas Pump and Doing Something About It

Getting Ripped off at the Gas Pump and Doing Something About ItIt’s funny how something as simple as purchasing gas can turn into a challenge when the people you are dealing with are unreasonable. This is exactly the situation in which I found myself a few weeks ago when I stopped at our local gas station to fill my tank. As I was trying to use my credit card to make the purchase, a voice from the clerk inside advised me that the credit card readers were not functioning and that I would need to use cash to make my gasoline purchase. As I look back on the situation now, I should have taken my business down the street, but at the time I didn’t believe there would be any problems making a simple purchase using cash.

The gas station also serves as a mini-market, pizza maker, sandwich shop, donut vendor, breakfast burrito distributor, and oh, yes, it sells gas as a way of drawing the public in. As I entered, the clerk asked me how much gas I wanted to buy and I said I wanted to fill it up. She asked me how much I thought the car would need and I gave a guess that about $20 should do just fine. I presented her with a $20 bill and returned to my car and began the refueling process. I was only able to squeeze in $15 worth of gas and I returned inside to the counter to get my $5 change.

This was when the fun and games began. I explained that my tank only took $15 to fill up and I thought I would receive my $5 back. The clerk told me she had no way to confirm that I only took $15 worth of fuel, to which I replied she could come out to the pump and see for herself. She informed me that she was alone and that her assistant was late coming in to the store. She informed me that I would have to see the store manager in the morning and that I would have to return then.

I returned the following morning and the same clerk was present and brought the manager to the counter. I explained the situation and was amazed when the manager told me she had no way to confirm my purchase of only a $15 nor would she return the $5. I asked her if she thought I would be returning if I wasn’t owed what I considered a small sum of money. I also asked if she was calling me a liar and she had no response. I left making a comment that this wasn’t over yet. As I drove home I thought to myself how ridiculous this situation had become over such an insignificant amount, especially since this gas station was a nationally owned company and could well afford a lousy $5.

Upon returning home, I thought I would call the company, but my wife suggested that I wait a day to calm down. Heeding her opinion, I waited until the following day and went to the company’s website in search of a phone number. Instead of calling, I noticed the company had a customer service email for public use. I reiterated everything I mentioned above, left my cellphone number, and requested that I be contacted.

A few hours later I received a phone call from a person who identified themselves as a VP in charge of customer relations. I was informed that the manager of the store was standing by and that she would personally be waiting to return my $5 and offer an apology. In addition, he was emailing me a coupon for a free pizza (I had previously eaten pizzas from there, and they were not a gastronomical delight — a little too greasy for my tastes — and I am a huge fan of Papa Murphy take and bake pizzas) as well as for drinks as a token of the company’s appreciation for doing business at its gas station.

I did return to the station and was given my $5 as well as an apology. I wasn’t gloating in my conquest — in fact, it was a pain having to go through all of the hoops for five bucks.

So what did I learn from this experience? To me it was more convenient to send an email for two reasons:

  • The email provided me with proof that I had contacted the company.
  • By emailing I was able to keep my emotions and anger in check.

I also learned that big companies will listen to customers who feel they have received poor customer service on the local level.

Comments welcome.

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by Sean Hackbarth

Article Written by

I have been writing for Lockergnome for eight years.

  • modsuperstar

    Where the hell do you live? There are almost no pumps around here(Ontario) anymore that aren’t all electronically linked with the adjoining store. It just seems crazy that in 2012 a place like that actually has no way of accounting for their stock.

  • Harry Creter

    I worked as a Gas attendant in New Jersey for a goodly time. In New Jersey We are a Full service state, where self service is illegal thus the attendant is right there at the pumps to see the numbers first hand and even we still have the pumps displayed indoors and can be called up with ease. 



      • Dan Stransky

        He’s not joking either. I think where the only state where self service is a criminal offense lol.

  • Karl Entner

    Even in Quebec here right next door to Ontario. They are all electronically control. And can easily brought up the total gas you pumped into your tank at the time you put the $15 to fill up yours tank on your car. They should have been able to give you the $5 owed back to you since you did not use the full amount to get the tank full. 

  • Tony I

    Here, in Bulgaria, the pumps are directly connected to the register inside and such thing cannot happen.
    I’m amazed that you don’t have that in the US

  • Guest

    Take a picture of the pump display before and after.

  • Jason Lafortune

    I know it might be hard for you but think of what you put the clerk through she was just following orders

    • Tinman57

       I seriously doubt that the clerk was following orders, otherwise she wouldn’t have been forced to give back the money and apologize.  The fuel computer system is either working or not working.  If she couldn’t tell how much fuel he put in, then how would she know if he didn’t put in more than what he paid for?
        At the end of each shift they have to write down the number of gallons sold per grade and tally that with how much money was collected on the fuel.  The manager would have seen that someone was overcharged unless the clerk pocketed the money.  Yeah, I used to be a filling station clerk once upon a time….

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  • Ben Hartley

    I’m more puzzled about being able to fill up for $15?
    I guess you didn’t have an empty tank, but still, it wouldn’t be worth the effort to put that much in, in the UK. It costs me around £60 to fill up my small 10 Gallon Tank (Thats around $100)


  • Dragoth17

    Are you kidding me. This is not helpful or useful at all. I subscribed to locker gnome for useful information not a story about your life. I expected to read how to save money at the pump not you getting screwed out of 5 bucks then finally getting it. 

    • Tinman57

        It may not be helpful to you, and it’s time that you learn that the universe doesn’t revolve around you.  If you didn’t like the story all you had to do was close down the page and go to your next destination.  But I suspect that your just and angry troll looking for some place or somebody to flame upon….

  • Thomas Corbett

    I know most of the pumps here are pay at the pump only a few are pay inside. to many drive offs.

    Good to hear you are a fan of Papa Murphys I am a Manager of one here in WI.

  • Lyle

    Good for you.  $5 doesn’t mean much to some folk, but for a guy who is only lucky enough to get an occasional contract job (me), it’s a lot.   You have to watch out for the flim flam tellers too.   I got ripped once from a Burger King franchise when I know I gave them a $20 but they gave me change like I gave them a $10.   I went back but it was a he says, she says.   I just wish I would have tried your technique with them.   Sometimes giving these guys a bad name is the only recourse.   I know, in this case, it wasn’t Burger King but an individual who worked there.   I still believe in karma though so that person is going to be cursed.   :) 

    • JAY


  • SoCal

    Here in California I wanted a receipt a few times.
    The pump was out of paper so I gave the attendant in the booth the pump number and he printed it out in his booth.
    They are electronically connected if you have the brains to use it.

  • Ralph Worlein

    Excellent! I go out of my way to be honest with people and when something such as this happens to me I pursue it to the bitter end. Haven’t had to go to the Supreme Court yet.

  • Ron_Schenone

    Thanks to everyone for the comments. I should of mentioned that not only were the card readers not functioning at the pump but it seems that the computer system itself was also having issues. I also found it hard to believe there was no way to determine how much I bought from inside the establishment. This is a fairly new gas station and one would think they would have the latest equipment available.

    Ben Hartley: We are a bunch of cry babies here in the U.S. once gas gets to $4 a gallon. Fill-up in this case was topping off the tank. I do that once a week just to keep the tank filled. Since I work at of the house, I do not drive much. :-)

  • Sullivanacctg

    Unbelievable!! Theres a reason that these people have a hard time making more than minimum wage. As we have all heard “you can’t fix stupid!” So corporate realizing that there was a problem, gave you your money back and some freebies. What corporate should have done is to fire the employee AND the manager. This is a scheme that is essentially theft. I will bet you were not the only person scammed by this, and corporate had probably seen this happen before. I guarantee you that had you given the the clerk $10 either you would have only been able to put $10 in your tank (verifying that they indeed do know how much you used) or they would have made sure that you paid any difference.

  • Sky Christopherson-Teubert

    I’m up in Wisconsin, and we pump gas, and then pay in the store. 

    Also, I work at Papa Murphys Take&Bake Pizza, and when I read that you love them, I felt appreciated for my work! 
    But I see the issue you went through, and I honestly don’t blame you for what you did, even if it was for just $5. 

  • Jay

    Hard to believe a gas purchase can’t be verified in this day and age. On another note I really love Papa Murphy’s new cheeseburger pizza with hamburger, bacon and pickles, yummy!

  • James Gubbins

    I had a similar experience.  I went to pump gas and tried to use a credit card from outside.  I waited for the attendant to turn on the pump.  After some time I waved to get the attendants attention and the pump was activated. As I began pumping my gas he comes running out and tells me their credit card machine was down and I would need to pay cash.  I had about $3.00 on the meter at this point and since I don’t typically carry cash on me I had a dollar and some change – but not enough to cover the $3.  I stopped pumping and went inside to ask why the attendant had authorize the pump and was told I had authorized the transaction.  Really? I turned the pump on?  I explained I only had the dollar and change.  I was told “you don’t want to pay” and called a cheap (insert expletive here)!  Since their ATM was also down, I drove up the street got the balance due and returned to the original gas station laying down the balance and requesting an apology for the rude treatment.  I was told “I don’t like you”.  I said you don’t have to like me and walked out.  I too tried to call the parent company but was unable to find contact information on their site.  Needless to say I have never made another purchase from that station.

  • Tinman57

      You don’t have to yell, we can hear you just fine….

  • Alligatorterror

    was this in the 80s or something?  Unless you were on a motorcycle or so I do not see how $15 filled your tank….

  • frozen_dude

    Tho all gas stations in Sweden are all computerized, partly due to these kinds of situations where conflict may occur, I always keep a small digital camera in the lapel of my jacket.

  • Asm C Mnemonic

    In Kuwait, no pizza service or doughnuts offered whatsoever. However, companies are strict in making sure to offer satisfactory to the customers, assuming that the employees know what to do and they actually care about customer satisfactory.

  • Noreply

    You could have put $25 in your tank and they would not have known! The gas station needs to upgrade their equipment.

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