RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – Inflation has forced all of us to watch our spending, especially when filling up the tank. Even with the fluctuating gas prices all year long, but there is a team that makes sure you’re not being ripped off at the pump.
On a bright August morning, a pickup truck pulling a large trailer parked in front of two gas pumps at a Richmond BP station. Two men in reflective vests hopped out and began filling up.
“Pump test on one and two please! One and two!” one yelled into a walkie-talkie.
These guys are here to fill up and just like anyone they want to make sure they get their money’s worth. They’re with the Office of Weights and Measures from the Virginia Department of Agriculture. They test the accuracy of gas pumps.
Program manager Gary Milton leads a team of 20 who are responsible for the more than 100,000 pumps across the commonwealth.
“Its important to ensure that the customer gets what they pay for. And its also important that the businesses produce an accurate delivery device for the consumers,” Milton said.
When testing pumps, the inspectors fill up a special tank that measures exactly five gallons of fuel. They cross reference with the display screen to make sure everything matches. In some cases it may pump a little more, or a little less. They figure out what’s causing the problem, like maybe the pump is leaking. They then take action.
“We can either reject or condemn the pumps or we can issue a stop sale on the fuel,” Milton said.
The department can even issue civil penalties on the gas station owner for more severe infractions. Last year, they received 500 complaints about gas stations, and 125 of those dealt directly with discrepancies about the amount of fuel from pumps.
The department’s teams actively investigate complaints and even randomly visit stations. Within a two year period, they perform tests on every grade of fuel on every single pump in Virginia. These tests include look at the quality of gas to make sure there is no water or contaminants in it.
Along with all that work, the crews also inspect the inside to look out for skimmers that steal your credit card information.
“We have seen some with Bluetooth capability, maybe even satellite capability,” Milton explained.
After the tests for everything from fuel quality to skimmers, the team hand out their sticker seal of approval.
They say all in all, it is extremely rare for a gas station owner to intentionally rip off customers. Despite their best efforts, officials still suggest you should pay close attention to your receipts.
The Department of Agriculture also does a lot more work than just testing gas pumps. The agency has teams that measure scales for anything from trucks to groceries to diamonds.
If you ever see an issue with the price you’re paying at the gas pump, be sure to contact the Virginia Department of Agriculture at (804) 786-2476 or email owm@vdacs.Virginia.gov.