Not getting what you pay for? How to file a complaint

Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 10:37 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Gas stations, supermarkets, and even car washes are under the watchful eye of Arizona weights and measures officials. Their job is to protect consumers and businesses from getting short-changed by testing scales, meters, and packaged products.

”Pretty much if you can weigh it, count it, or measure it, we’re likely interested in some way,” said Mike Brooks, compliance manager with the Arizona Department of Agriculture Weights and Measures Services Division.

After seeing concerns about gas station air pumps posted on a neighborhood networking app, 13 News wanted to know if those timing devices are regulated and how often customers in Southern Arizona aren’t getting what they pay for.

“Here it says $2 for five minutes. Okay, so that’s our stated time and rate. $2 for five minutes,” said Brooks, who took us to a convenience store air machine to demonstrate the inspection process.

Brooks oversees the commercial device inspection program, which includes timing devices, such as air machines, used to fill up customers’ tires.

Officials do not inspect the air speed quality, just the timing.

“Neal, our inspection investigator, is going to put $2 worth of quarters in the machine. As soon as he drops the last coin, he starts his stopwatch,” said Brooks.

Over the past year, 724 various timing devices across Southern Arizona were tested.

45% of devices were found to have at least one violation.

2% of devices were not operating for the posted time, meaning the customer wasn’t getting what they paid for.

Other violations include 13% of businesses not posting a statement of rates. And 14% of the devices ran longer than intended, impacting the business.

The results of the air machine test are five minutes and 21 seconds. Brooks says it’s over in time, but still within tolerance.

“All the required information is on the device. Good to go. So, if anything on this device, the customer is getting a little extra. Just a little extra,” said Brooks.

Brooks also took us to a carwash, “So, what we’re going to do, we’re going to put $2 in here and make sure that it runs for that four-minute stated time.”

After washing his truck, it comes just shy of the four minutes that inspector Neal Wilkins paid for.

“We’re within tolerance, 3:57. So we’re allowed six seconds,” said Wilkins showing his stopwatch.

Businesses are allowed six seconds if it’s below the posted time. But what if it goes over?

“A tolerance for an air machine or a carwash is six seconds per minute of indicated run time. So, in this case, it says it’s five minutes, so it could be over by as much as 30 seconds and still be within tolerance,” said Brooks.

Weights and measures officials also inspect local laundromats.

“So in laundromats, typically, we’re looking at the dryer,” said Brooks. “Because the dryers are typically a time-based operation. Washers go by the cycle, and dryers go by time. So dryers are what we’re interested in.”

When a device is not compliant, it’s taken out of service, and the inspection report will go to the corporate office.

At the laundromat 13 News visited with Brooks, customers get what they pay for.

“The dryer was indicated to run eight minutes, it’s 7:59, so we’re good there,” said Brooks. “For me, the satisfaction of doing the job is that we’re an agency that protects the consumer. But if we’re doing everything right, nobody even knows we exist because they have no reason to think about us.”

If you think an incorrect timing device has short-changed you, you can file a complaint with the Department of Weights and Measures. Click here for the link. They respond to all complaints within ten days.