I thought this was kind of funny, from the false hysteria department. The Arizona Republic begins ominously:
If you're already mad about gas prices, prepare to get madder. Besides paying prices at the pump that were unthinkable a few months
ago, many consumers also are getting ripped off by the pump itself.
Uh, Oh. I can see it coming. The AZ Republic has smoked out more evil doings from the oil industry. I shudder to think what horrors await.
About 9 percent, or about 2,000, of the 20,400 gas pumps inspected this
fiscal year by the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures since
July 1, 2007, failed to pass muster.
Oh my freaking God! Every fill up, I have a one in 11 chance of my gas being measured wrong. I just bet those oil companies are coming out in the night to tweak the pump so I get hosed.
Half of those were malfunctioning to the detriment of customers.
See! There you go! Half are to the detriment of customers!
Oh. Wait a minute. Doesn't that mean the other half are to the benefit of customers? Why would those oil guys be doing that? This sure isn't a bunch of very smart conspirators. Could it be that this is just the result of random drift in a measurement device, with the direction of drift equally distributed between "reads high" and "reads low"?
As it turns out, I worked for a very large flow measurement instrument maker for several years. For a variety of reasons, flow measurement devices can drift or can be mis-calibrated. To fail the state standard, the meter has to be off about 2.5%, which is about 6 tablespoons to the gallon. State governments have taken on the task of making sure commercial weights and measures are accurate, and though I think this could be done privately, I don't find it a terribly offensive government task. Having taken this task on, it is reasonable to question whether it is doing its oversight job well. But let's not try to turn this into a consumer nightmare by only discussing one half of the normal distribution of outcomes.
Post title stolen from an old Dilbert cartoon.