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Old Gas Pumps Can't Display $4 a Gallon Price

Here's something unexpected about the rising price of gasoline: old mechanical pumps were designed during the time when $4 per gallon was simply unthinkable, so the rotary dials didn't have gears to go beyond $3.99 a gallon!

Like a lot of small-scale entrepreneurs, Cathy Osborne worries that she'll go out of business if fuel prices rise above $4 a gallon. Not because she won't be able to buy gas at that price, but because she won't be able to sell it.

The old mechanical gas pumps with scrolling dials at her country store in Fauquier County lack the gears to go beyond $3.99 a gallon. State inspectors shut down her diesel pump several months ago when the fuel topped the $4 mark, so now all that's left are two pumps dispensing 87-octane gasoline, set at $3.75 -- and climbing.

Link - Thanks Phoenix Kate!


Back when US gas prices first broke $1/gal, we had a similar problem. Most gas pumps could only go as high as $0.999. The short term solution was to halve (or quarter) the price and just multiply it when you paid. They will have to get new pumps, eventually, but so did everyone in the late '70s.

Nothing to see here, move along.
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In Canada we had a similar problem when gas went over $1 a liter. I think the signage was most affected. Fear not, they'll adapt.
And the cheapest gas I can find up here is about $4.69 US a gallon (equivalent).
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Businesses that don't reinvest in their capital equipment aren't competitive and will be left behind. Owners took out too much of the profit and didn't reinvest. Capitalism at work.
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Yeah, mostly signage problems for the litre in Canada. They had to figure out where to insert that extra digit. Some places still just show only the last two cents, and the dollar digit is assumed.
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It's ridiculous that they can't just use the total number of gallons pumped and calculate the price at the cash register. That's how we buy fruit and foods in the bulk section. You have to go inside to pay anyway.

MikeH: The place mentioned in the story is the only gas station for 20 miles, as are most stations where this is a problem. Capitalism has little effect.
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Americans (Canadians anyways) often tend to buy fuel by the dollar (usually rounded to the $5 or $10 mark), rather than by volume, so a volume only sale would be no good.

The pumps do need refitted. A cheap way would be to remark the 10th/cent roller to be the cent roller, since the 10th/cent place always seems to be set to 9, and set the read value/gallon to 1/10th.
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Or she could just stop gouging customers. She wouldn't be making any money off the gas in the first place; gas station profits come from concessions, like at movie theaters. This is just yellow journalism.
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I doubt gas stations, in cities anyway, make more money in doritos and slurpees than they do in gasoline sales. In this case the gasoline does seem like a gimmick to get folks to eat at her restaurant as I doubt there are more than a few people fueling up their tractors very often.

She could just level her price at $3.999, especially if its the only station in miles - Rising oil prices do not have to equal ridiculously high gas prices. If its unprofitable, invest in new pumps or stop selling gas.

IDK how much gas stations spend on gas but Im sure theyre not selling it for even money
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there could be some catch-22 money working in here somehow.....if only i could figure out how to buy for 2 cents and sell for 1 cent and get rich off it....
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I highly doubt she's gouging customers since that particular store is in the middle of nowhere! I've driven past it many times (and stopped there, just never got gas). She needs to charge the norm to keep the store open. I'll have to pay it a visit since I'll be heading back home for a week and it's on one of my favorite roads to drive in beautiful Fauquier County Virginia! I very much recommend visiting the area too. It's the greatest place to drive if you know all the back roads and secret spots. I love Fauquier County!
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I live on an island in Maine. The gas pump here (there's only one) is of the above type, but it only goes up to $1.99. So the price is set at $1.47 with a large sign reading SORRY, PRICE MUST BE TRIPLED. So gas is $4.41 a gallon.
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