Fuel pumps can't handle the gas price run-up either!


I don't think there's anyone around who isn't grumbling about high gas prices. (Unless you're committed to walking and biking, I suppose.) Gas station owners are already hurting because of the high gas prices. They make very little money on gas to begin with, and the higher the prices rise, the more their margins are hurt.

Now we can add another gripe to the list for some gas station owners. Older pumps may not be set up to charge more than $3.99 per gallon. That's the problem one gas station owner in the Seattle area is grappling with. Lou Engels bought new gas pumps in 1995, never thinking that he'd have to replace them because they only go up to $3.99 per gallon.

Those twelve-year-old pumps aren't exactly ancient, and there's apparently nothing wrong with how they operate. So replacing them isn't much of an option, especially when it would cost him tens of thousands of dollars. Even just upgrading the pumps would cost him a minimum of $8,500, a cost that Engel can't justify right now.

So what's a gas station owner to do? Engel has posted large signs indicating the correct price, and each sale has to be tallied by hand before the customer can pay. He says he's got local customers who understand, and this hasn't hurt his business. But it looks like Engel may be forced to do the expensive upgrades, because Washington state laws require the pumps to calculate the correct total price. Just another fuel-related woe to add to the list!

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.