HOUSTON -- Just days before one of the busiest travel weekends of the year, the KHOU 11 News I-Team uncovered questions about whether or not you’ll get what you pay for at Houston-area gas pumps.
It’s especially troubling in a city so dependent on driving.
“That’s pretty important, that we get our gas at the right amount and not be shorted or anything,” said Kayla Curran of Pearland.
But the truth is, a review of state fuel pump inspection records shows plenty of gas stations cheating you.
“You think you’re getting what you pay for, but apparently not, right?” asked Areitha Hunnicutt, a driver from the Channelview area.
The 11 News I-Team analyzed state inspection records and discovered that in the last two years nearly one-in-three gas station inspections in our region ended in a failing grade.
In all, that represented 1,667 different gas stations across our area.
“That’s going to make me think twice going to the gas station now,” said Felix Rodriguez of Houston after the I-Team told him what we found.
Take Berry Food Store on Berry Road.
State inspectors found problems with its pumps three different times since the beginning of November, 2011.
According to the Texas Department of Agriculture, in one case a pump charged $1.28 before delivering any gas.
Inside the store, employee Farman Khan said Berry Food Store fixed the problem shortly after the inspection.
The I-Team asked him how the pump became so out-of-whack in the first place.
“I don’t know,” said Khan. “It’s a machine, maybe.”
At the Phillips 66 station at Bellaire and Winkleman, inspectors found multiple pumps charging customers for more gas than they actually received.
The station’s owner, Suleman Khan, admitted paying the state a $100 fine, but denied that he was ripping off customers.
“No,” said Suleman Khan. “We don't do it at all. We're doing really good business here. We don't rip off anybody in the world.” He too said as soon as inspectors found the problems, the station made repairs right away.
But violations like these are just the ones state inspectors actually find.
That’s because in Texas, gas stations can be inspected as little as once every four years.
However, TDA points out stations with a history of problems, or complaints, can get more frequent visits from the pump police.
Inspections check everything from the condition of gas pumps and hoses, to making sure the price on the pump matched the price advertised, and verifying that what the pump says is a gallon really is a gallon.
“We always want to know what we pay for,” said TDA Inspector Krishaun Adair.
Just ask David Krieger. “Something like this makes me really mad,” Krieger told the I-Team.
He filed a complaint with TDA after he pulled into Star Stop #7 on Pinemont.
Krieger said the pump showed he got 13 gallons of gas, but when he started his car, the gauge told another story.
“I got no gas,” Krieger recalled. “I mean he probably could have got me for a gallon or two and I might not have noticed it. But no, the whole tank?”
State inspectors went to the station and shut down every pump.
Inside the Star Stop, the store’s manager, Shawn Usman, told the I-Team he’s never seen the station cheat customers.
While Krieger’s credit card company refunded his money, the salesman says he’s not taking any more chances.
“It’s the old story, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me,” Krieger said. “And I’m not going back there, no. I don’t like people to steal from me.”
In a statement, to the I-Team, a spokesperson for Shell wrote “Issues were identified at the Shell-branded station located at Pinemont and Bingle, in Houston, Texas in December of 2012 by the State of Texas during an inspection. The site was closed for less than a day while the calibration issues were addressed. The site was re-inspected by the State during that time and re-opened as compliant under State guidelines.”
TDA admits it’s difficult for inspectors to determine whether a gas station owner is intentionally taking advantage of customer or simply having mechanical issues with fuel pumps.
If an operated is determined to be intentionally ripping off customers, TDA will turn its findings over the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
To report a problem with a fuel pump you can click here or call 1-800-TELL-TDA.
In the last year, 1,476 fuel pump complaints in the Houston region were filed with TDA. To look up a particular gas station’s inspection history, click here.