What’s your problem? Double-billed by my gas station

Question: We recently stopped at a shell Shell station in Pittsburgh on our way to the airport to catch a flight home. We wanted to fill the gas tank up or “top it off” as they say.

My husband started to pump gas and something malfunctioned with the gas pump and the attendant had to come outside to fix it. He started again to pump gas and finished up and I signed the receipt for $31.

We received our Shell statement and saw that there were two identical entries for gas on that day, both for $31 — one for 8.88 gallons and one for 8.87 gallons. Obviously, one of the transactions is bogus. How could we pump the almost identical amount of gas simultaneously?

We’ve made numerous attempts to resolve this billing error. We have a receipt for one of the transactions but not for the other. We keep asking Shell to provide us with a copy of the transaction receipt. Twice now we have received letters saying we have to get it from the retail location.

Now, a third letter is saying that we made the purchase at a Pay Express Pump and that a receipt is only available at the time of sale. The letter said to be more careful with receipts. But we never got a receipt for the second charge. That’s why we don’t have one.

If you can help us get a copy of a signed receipt, we would be happy to pay the charges. I think this Shell station is trying to rip us off. I would appreciate if you could look into this for me. I feel we have run into a brick wall. — Gabriel Sabbagh, Miami

Answer: Shell should be able to send you a receipt for your gas purchase. Otherwise, I’m inclined to believe you were double-billed for your purchase.

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A $31 charge to top off a car — even a gas-guzzling SUV — seems high. But $62 is more than enough to fill a tank at today’s gas prices. (I drive a fuel-sipping Honda Accord, and I usually come in under $50 for a full tank.)

Whenever a transaction is cut off in this way, whether it’s in error or not, you have to pay extra close attention to your credit card statement. I would have asked the station attendant for receipts of your entire purchase. If you have to swipe your card again, you are initiating a second transaction, so you would get two receipts. Be sure you ask for both.

Your situation is complicated by the fact that you’re in Miami and the service station is in Pittsburgh. It’s not as if you can drive over to the station in person and speak with a manager, but you should be able to call the station, get the manager’s email address, and figure out a way of proving (or disproving) the legitimacy of the first charge.

Shell corporate shouldn’t have handed you off the the station owner so quickly. When something like this is appealed to the corporate level, it needs to take some responsibility instead of shooting you a form letter. I’m not sure why they though they could absolve themselves of responsibility. After all, it’s their name on the station.

I think you could have disputed the erroneous $31 charge on your credit card and won. (Better yet, pay by cash the next time and you won’t have to worry about being overcharged.) But before doing that, I contacted Shell on your behalf. A company representative called you and agreed to remove the first charge.

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(Road side/Flickr)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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