Democrat Rips Pump Printers, Then Backs Off

Feb 22, 2016

A North Florida Democrat wanted to crack down on malfunctioning gas pump printers, but at the last minute, he decided on a more measured response.

Democratic Senator Bill Montford of Tallahassee, satisfied that retailers heard his concerns, backed down Monday from a threat to force gas stations to shut down pumps when their printers fail.

This morning, the pumps at the Circle K on Thomasville Road near Midtown were nearly deserted.

And that was a good thing for Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services technician Jetur “Jet” Johnson.

His strange-looking government truck, with three large translucent cylinders on back, was moored to one pump with a short rubber hose. Johnson was making sure the pumps were delivering the right amount and grade of gas at the advertised price.

He also tested the printers, although he said complaints are rare.

“Not very frequently about receipts. We do get em, don’t get me wrong. But not frequently, no.”

The department is responsible for inspecting a little more than 9 thousand gas stations and conducts 60 thousand inspections a year, according to a legislative analysis.

Johnson says the most common complaint from motorists is accuracy.

“They’re saying they got a certain size gas tank and they pump this amount of gas, and the car don’t hold that much gas.”

A few hours later, Democratic Senator Bill Montford of Tallahassee appeared before the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee with a different opinion – and a bill that would force gas station owners to shut down a pump when its printer goes kaput.

Montford told the panel he was hearing from elderly constituents who had to leave their cars and stand in line just to get a gas receipt after the pumps failed to deliver. One constituent, Montford said, had to unbuckle grandchildren and walk march them through a driving rain storm.

But he put the bill on hold at the last minute after industry lobbyists promised to look into the issue.

“Again, it’s something that needs to be addressed but hopefully we’ll see what happens over the next several months and we can always come back next year with it.”

Florida Retail Federation spokesman James Miller said his members didn’t see the need for more direction from Tallahassee. Shutting down a pump is a big deal, especially for a mom-and-pop station, Miller says.

“What does a small gas station owner do with one or two employees and he’s required to go out there and fix the printer? And not only that, but to shut down the pump that he relies on for his livelihood. “

Jan Rubino, a retired administrative assistant for the now defunct Department of Community Affairs, is scrupulous about collecting her receipts, even on the rare times she has to go see the attendant.

But as she pumped gas at the Circle K, she wondered about the need for a law.

“I understand the situation for people who cannot get up to the main store. But I think it could be solved with something less than a statute...(laughs,)..frankly.”

Satisfied that he got his message across, Montford apparently agrees.