Jack Simpson - Finding baloney at the fuel pump

I'm not Clark Howard, but like him, I do enjoy saving money. I particularly do not appreciate being ripped off. In our family, we try to be smart shoppers. We seek buying advice from consumer advocates like Clark.

In this time of high fuel prices, we have joined those who keep a sharp eye out for the lowest prices. A penny earned can be a penny saved, and saving pennies can add up over time. Cutting energy costs helps to reduce other household bills.

Recently, we were riding back from town and spotted a posted price for gasoline about 10 cents below the average. We were acquainted with the station, or thought we were, having done business with it for several years. The owner had a reputation for giving consumers a break, helping them stretch their fuel dollars.

On this occasion, when the pump was turned on it registered 5 cents before any pumping was done. Paying by credit card inside the market, we called this nickel to the attendant's attention. We felt that the gasoline price posted for consumers should match what was offered by the merchant at the pump. The clerk handed us back five cents, apparently agreeing.

Only a buzzard feeds on his friends, and the people who ran this station never had the reputation for taking advantage of customers. Only after receiving my credit card statement did I wonder if these folks had turned into buzzards.

Have you guessed what they did? Yes, they charged that 5 cents back to my credit card. While in their store, the attendant admitted the five cents should not have been on the pump and agreed to its return. He apparently really did not believe his business practice wasn't ethical, because he charged it back to our credit card. His baloney turned out to be baloney, no matter how thin he sliced it.

In this case, it isn't the 5 cents that is of concern. It is the practice of finding an unethical way to get around an advertised price. The merchant convinced himself that his bad idea was still a good one, even after a customer complaint.

We do not plan on doing further business with this store - at least until the attendant figures out what is right instead of who is right.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author, and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Sunday.