Not Sure this Is A Point of Pride...

I actually found out about this early last year:

Mom-and-pop service stations are running into a problem as
gasoline marches toward $4 a gallon: Thousands of old-fashioned pumps
can't register more than $3.99 on their spinning mechanical dials.

We operate a marina in the back-end of nowhere in Colorado where, since we can only accept less-than-full-truckload gas shipments, we were paying wholesale prices over $3.50 last summer.  We attempted to go to $4.09 on the retail pump, and wham, we ran up against this retail equivalent of the Y2k bug.

  • CRC

    While I'm certainly not doubting this, I just wonder why/how this happened? I mean why doesn't the dollar digit have 10 values (0-9) like the cents do (0-9 and 0-9) so you have theoretical pricing of 0.00 to 9.99?

  • dearieme

    No worries, you'll soon be selling it by the pint.

  • http://highwayx.wordpress.com Highway

    Back to the old 1/2 gallon prices! And like CRC, I think it's just stupid that when they made pumps that could do X.XX per gallon prices (as opposed to the old .XX prices for under a dollar) that they didn't go up to 9.

  • michael

    The internet is a great thing: this week I've learned that the answer to the dial question has a lot to do with gearing. These are mechanical devices and the faster you ask the cents dial to go the faster all the gears wear out. When gas went over a dollar a gallon, replacement kits could go to 2, 3 or 4 dollars, likely at increasing specs and therefore price.

    However, it's one thing to make the mechanism a bit tougher and allow a x2 or x4 multiplier, but x10 is asking a lot and probably also gets really tough to still be accurate to the penny.

    I doubt Mom and Pop were really into paying a bunch extra to go to 5 or 6 dollars a gallon when many others opted to buy just the $2 versions. The people affected now *are* the forward looking ones who bit the bullet and got the premium $4 devices (or got them new later - not too sure when everything went all-electronic).

    Slowing down the delivery speed is also an option, but again, slowing it by a quarter or third is one thing, taking it well below half speed is quite another.

    That latter part reminds me of the old cartoon with a muscle car at the pump, the attendant says "turn off your engine, I can't keep up".

  • Ed

    Your mom-and-pop stations should investigate the need of business to keep their equipment at least as capable as an antique. The kind of pumps you mention, the ones with the Veeder-Root mechanical computer went out of production in 1978 making them >= 30 years old.

  • T J Sawyer

    If I recall from trips to small towns out in the west years ago, the usual solution to this problem is a sign that reads:

    "AMOUNT DUE IS 2 TIMES THE AMOUNT SHOWN ON THE PUMP"

  • T J Sawyer

    If I recall from trips to small towns out in the west years ago, the usual solution to this problem is a sign that reads:

    "AMOUNT DUE IS 2 TIMES THE AMOUNT SHOWN ON THE PUMP"