NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla. - The price of gas keeps climbing, so when you fill up, you expect to get every drop. But have you ever suspected your pump may not be accurate? We investigated to see how often the gas pumps go awry in Southwest Florida.
We followed gas pump inspector Paul Mills while he was on the job around Lee County. He's the Department of Agriculture employee who makes sure you get what you pay for, when you fill up.
"I have some people say they're grateful for me doing my job. They watch me walking back and forth. They want me to give them free gas but I can't do that, I'll lose my job," joked Paul.
As an inspector, he checks to make sure you're getting the right octane and the right amount.
"I'm doing a five-gallon test. I am going to stop at five gallons. This is a five-gallon test measure and the test we are doing has to be within plus-six or minus-six cubic inches. Anywhere within there would be good," he explained. (There are 231 cubic inches in one gallon of gasoline.)
Paul inspects every single pump in Lee County and on this particular day he found all of the gas station's pumps giving less gas than they should, cheating customers 35 cubic inches for every five gallons pumped. That works out to about $1.60 for each tankful. He shut down the pumps right away.
"This stays locked up and if it is good when I do my re-inspection, then I would put it back in service," he said.
But Paul says finding pumps like this is very rare.
"Very rare that I see stations like this. Probably, maybe twice in 19 years," he told WINK.
In fact, both he and the Department of Agriculture say they usually find gas stations giving away more gas than they should. We went through dozens of citations here in Southwest Florida throughout Lee, Charlotte and Collier counties. Here is what we found:
-4,077 gave away more gas than they should.
-1,398 were accurate.
-2,384 gave less gas than they should.
Still, making sure the pumps are right is a full time job for Paul, and Paul alone.
"I'm the guy. I'm the only one that's here doing Lee County. I wish I had help but with the economy, I have to do it myself," he said.
So it takes Paul a long time to make it to test every single pump, but he never complains.
"I like everything about my job. I like doing my work. I like working outside. I like making sure the consumer is getting the correct amount. That's what we're here for," said Paul.
If you suspect a pump is inaccurate, you can call the Department of Agriculture at 1-800-HELP FLA. They will perform an inspection.
For more information on what inspectors look for, you can click on this website.