GREENSBORO, N.C. (WFMY) — One of the best things about gas stations, aside from the treats and cheap coffee, is the giant sign that tells you exactly what you’re paying for in fuel costs.
Unlike most businesses that post the price in the store or on a small menu outside, the price at the pump is often displayed in neon colors you can see several hundred feet away.
What’s even more amazing is that gas stations in North Carolina are not required to post the price on a giant sign outside the store but almost all of them do.
“Here in North Carolina you don’t have to display the price but if you do it has to be accurate,” said Chad Parker with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service.
The measurements division that Parker manages oversees more than 6,000 gas stations in the state. About 20 inspectors are tasked with any issues associated with pricing issues at those stations.
“We certainly encourage people to call us if they have a complaint, so we can look into it. There are just too many stations for us to check on our own,” said Parker.
One of the gas stations recently inspected is a Mobil on Wendover and Cridland. The station has two signs that show the price of gas. One of the signs is on the corner while the other is a bit smaller and toward the back off Cridland.
About four weeks ago, our WFMY News 2 Anchor Chad Silber, noticed the signs were displaying a different price for diesel.
“The number was reversed, so one was $2.97 and the other was $2.79,” said Silber. He took a picture of both signs and made a point to look at the signs the next time he was in the area.
Several days later Silber went back by the gas station and the signs were again showing two different prices.
“It did reflect the price of one of the signs, but obviously it doesn’t have two prices so one was wrong, and one was right,” said Silber.
Concerned about what was going on, he passed the news on to our Two Wants to Know Team to investigate. We continued to drive by the gas station during a one-week period and the prices were always different.
At this point, we had pictures from more than five different occasions that show the price of one sign was a lot more than the price on the other sign.
“That’s very concerning to me,” said Parker.
After four weeks we decided to go inside the station to figure out what was going on. The clerk at the counter was polite but would only say she would “fix it,” and that “the price at the pump is what you have to pay,” before she stopped talking.
The price on that day was listed at $2.86 and $2.68 for diesel depending on what sign you saw. Oddly enough the price at the pump was $2.87, so neither sign was accurate.
Only a few minutes after I left the store another lady came out to change the price on the one sign from $2.86 to $2.87. She also tried changing the other sign before saying, “It is broken.” After a couple of minutes, the sign was simply turned off.
An inspector went by the store the next day, and the sign was turned off.
“The sign was not displaying the price, which is fine,” said Parker.
The inspector did make a notation of the visit and the station could be cited or fined if found to be in violation. In most cases, the owner works with inspectors to get the issue rectified before it ever gets that far.
In this situation, the sign remained off for about 4 or 5 days before Silber was driving by and noticed the sign was back on and the prices were once again different.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Silber. Just like the previous times, we drove by the station one sign had the price at $2.78 while the other was $2.87.
We then reached back out to the Weights and Measures Division to inform them about what was going on. Turns out, an inspector also went by the gas station recently and noticed the discrepancy in the sign.
The gas station has been cited and fined an undisclosed amount. Parker encouraging all customers to pay close attention to the price at the pump compared to the price on the sign.
If you see a difference or if you have a complaint call 919-707-3225. The phone number is also listed on each approval sticker placed on fuel pumps and scales.
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