A disaster in the making

We have a local gas station, Floyd Express, where some of the pumps don’t work and unsuspecting motorists can get threatened with arrest by the local sheriff.

UPDATE: you can avoid having this happen to you by insisting that you get a receipt for your credit card purchase of gas. See my latest article on avoiding problems at the gas pump.

Background data: In Virginia if you drive away without paying for gas you could lose your driver’s license and receive a fine of up to $250.

In Floyd Express, at least some of the gas pumps doesn’t work. You put in your card, get authorized, pump the gas…and then you don’t get a receipt.  Some times you get a message to see the cashier.

So what you say, you don’t need a receipt, you paid and got the gas.

What you don’t know is that they may not have recorded the sale and they may call the sheriff and tell him you drove off without paying.

The authorizing message that shows up on the pump was initiated by one of the clerks inside, not by a computer. You have no way of knowing whether they recorded the sale or not.

I have been buying gas there at least twice a month and have received receipts about 50% of the time. Sometimes I have seen the message to see the cashier and have gone inside to find out that the printer was out of paper. Other times I have just ignored the message and went on my way. I did not know how lucky I was.

My wife, Gretchen bought gas there today, swiped the card, got the authorizing message and pumped the gas. She was in the local coffee shop fifteen minutes later when the sheriff’s deputies arrived to arrest her. Her friends in the coffee shop were convulsing with laughter as Gretchen was giving the deputies a piece of her mind and local columnist Tom Ryan was busily making notes for his next Enquirer article. Gretchen was not amused.

She went back to the Floyd Xpress, accompanied by two sheriffs deputies, and summoned the manager after the clerk behind the counter said she had no record of the sale. Things went downhill from there.

The staff finally admitted that all of the pumps allowed people to pump gas without authorization and sometimes the transaction doesn’t go through.

There is no warning that your card has not been approved, other than the fact that you have received no receipt. Since the printers are often out of paper, how can you be sure?

Would you like to gamble that you might lose your license because Floyd Xpress doesn’t record your credit card purchase properly?

Make sure you get a receipt for your gas purchase.

Seems like they should fix the pumps. They know they have a problem but have not fixed it.

UPDATE:

This topic came up at the dinner table last night and someone suggested that Floyd Xpress might be trying to save money by not getting the upgrades necessary to get immediate authorization from the credit card company.

Such is the power of the Internet that a probable answer came with the first comment from Michael Kohne. Read it and decide for yourselves.

UPDATE #2:

I appreciate the effort that people are making to present both sides of how this situation should have been handled, but I do not allow more than one personal attack from a commenter, so if you would like to make a point, try to keep it factual.

Several people felt that the store was in the right and that customers do not have rights. That is their prerogative, but when a gas pump gives misleading information, whose fault is that? The authorizing message on a gas pump, followed by a message to pump gas is universally understood to mean that your card is being charged. The absence of any other message does not give a consumer a clue.

The store should upgrade their software as has been suggested elsewhere or post a sign on the pumps that patrons must come to the cashier to confirm their credit card charges. Then the problem becomes public knowledge.

We customers are not always right, but we are customers and pay money for purchases and for good customer service. If a merchant feels a patron has left without paying and knows who the patron is, it is a simple matter to call the patron and ask them to return and complete the transaction. Calling the Police or the Sheriff’s office instead of the customer is assigning blame to the customer instead of working to find a better solution.

Bottom line: the pump/billing system appears to have been known to be faulty by store personnel for some time and yet no care is being taken to make sure that customers are warned of the problem. False arrest or the threat of arrest is no joke.   In a more litiginous part of the country, the store would have been sued long ago.

When I hear that something has been done about this, I will post all of the information here.

I hope it happens soon.

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