Are you responsible for a gas attendant's pumping mistake?

If you were ask for $10 of gas and the attendant fills up your tank by mistake, would you be responsible for paying the entire amount, or are you only responsible for what you asked for?

What if the attendant filled you with the wrong octane gas? What would you be responsible for in that case?

Thanks in advance.

My WAG would be that you would be responsible for the full price in both cases, because (1) if that wasn’t the case, you could always claim they misheard you and never pay full price for gas, and (2) you’re presumably actually there as they’re filling up your car, so it’s not unreasonable for you to be expected to keep an eye on the attendant and make sure they’re following your instructions.

But where are you that you even have gas station attendants anymore? I haven’t seen one in years (other than the guys inside selling cigarettes and junkfood).

A lot of states ban pumping your own gas to keep the attendants employed.

Actually, only NJ and Oregon.

Hey when it comes to banning PUMPING YOUR OWN GAS, 2 states is “a lot of states” :slight_smile:

Oregon is one state, which is why I always fill up in Washington unless I have no other choice.

When the attendant at a station fill my car with Premium instead of Regular.
I complained as my car is recommended for regular. The manager pretty quickly knocked the difference off and apologize. I’m guessing it happens often enough that they don’t want to lose a customer.

Most people are actually too honest to try and scam for a few dollars and if you have a little Econo box like mine, the managers are smart enough to know they run better on regular (in most cases, I know there are always exceptions)
By the way I live in NJ. When its snowing or raining, I appreciate the not allowed to pump your own rules.

I live in Oregon, and hate (well, get mildly irked about) driving into Washington for the same reason: in WA, I have to get out of my car and pump my own gas, pay more for the gas when I do it, and usually have to play some stupid game that involves leaving my credit card or wad of cash with the attendent in exchange for the honor of being their customer. Credit card readers in the pumps are making the last problem go away, at least.

I don’t know where these “prepay” (not at the pump) self-service stations came from (Minnesota didn’t have them when I left a few years ago), but the impression that I’m being treated like a likely criminal does a lot more than just mildly irk me.

Of course, my wife would be quick to relate the story of one of our driving trips into California, where just over the border, I pulled into a gas station and waited for an attendant…and waited… Count me as a fan of not having to pump my own. It’s a decent employment initiave for teenagers, and OR gas is cheaper than CA and WA, even with the extra labor.

I’m from NJ.

Don’t other states have a full service option at most gas stations?

jrfranchi, what part of central NJ are you from?

Not in Michigan.

When I was in Chile on vacation last year and filling up, most of the stations had attendants. And they made sure that you watched how much they put in and insisted you check to see that they had put the pump at zero before they started.

And then in true Chilean fashion, they gave you something like three different receipts. I think Chile will eventually crumble into the Pacific under the weight of the receipts they hand out.



I think they used to, but it’s been phased out in most places. (At least this seems to be true in Virginia, where I grew up.) Probably cause they don’t want to have to pay the guy.

California law, which I imagine is similar to many other states, requires self-service stations to have someone come out to pump gas for people with disabled license plates or placards.

The city of San Marino, California won’t grant a business permit to a gas station if it has self-service. All they do there is pump the gas. They don’t check the oil or wash the window or stuff like that.

very few NJ stations do the extras any more.

Sheesh. Hijackorama.

IANAAL (I am not an American Lawyer), there may be local laws on this subject, it’s a damn hard question, don’t rely on what follows.

As to (1), I am not aware of any law that obliges one to pay for something that a vendor has given you unasked because unless you were so obliged, other people might rip off that vendor.

As to (2), I am not aware of any responsibility upon a purchaser to ensure that a vendor does not rip themselves off. If, as a matter of fact you did see the attendant doing the wrong thing and didn’t say anything, it might possibly be argued that you had entered into an implied variation of the original contract.

I’m assuming throughout the following that simply siphoning the gas back out is too hard.

I’d can see two possible analyses of the “too much gas” situation.

  1. Your contract with the gas station has (at least) two terms. Firstly, you will pay for the amount of gas they put in your car at $Y per gallon. Secondly, they are to put X gallons in the car.

They put more than X gallons in the car.

Very probably, your obligation to perform the first term of the contract (to pay for the fuel put in the car at $Y per gallon) is not going to be conditional upon their precise performance of the second term. So you are going to have to pay for all the fuel.

You have a theoretical right to sue them for breach of the second term. However, except in unusual circumstances, your damages are likely to be basically nil because you’ve just got a bit more gas than you wanted. Perhaps if the reason you were getting less than a full tank in the first place was because the $Y per gallon you consider to be over market rate, you could seek damages for the difference.

  1. Alternatively, your contract with the gas station is to buy certain gas, which they give you. You are obliged to pay for that and only that. They also put certain other gas in your car.

You have no contractual obligation to pay for the other gas. You have certain other property (the other gas) in your tank. Now some hard questions arise. Can you now leave the gas station, removing someone else’s property from their premises? Can you burn the gas, it being someone else’s property?

I can’t be bothered looking up the texts on this, though I may get time later. The answers are not (I think you would find) easy. Possession of another’s property, even where you don’t want to be in possession of that property, gives rise to certain obligations to look after it. Gaining an unintended benefit from another can give rise to an obligation to pay, albeit at cost not at retail (to put it in non-technical language).

I suspect that courts would tend to lean to the first analysis, to avoid the problems inherent in the second.

As to the “wrong grade” question, the first analysis probably doesn’t fit: I don’t think that the gas station could argue you had agreed to pay for something you never wanted or asked for in any amount. So that leaves you with the second analysis.

This isn’t a complete analysis: I have to get on with other things, but perhaps others can expand or refute.

Well, I’d say that unless you couldn’t pay (that was your last $10), you might as well pay. After all- it’s not like it’s going to be wasted, right? You are going to use it, thus you should pay for it.

Some townships on Long Island (New York) forbid self-service gas pumping due to fire department regulations.