This is pretty disgusting right? (cheap gas)

About this:
WI residents find 35 cents gas

A gas station in central Wisconsin accidentally set their pump to 35 cents a gallon rather than $3.54 a gallon. Rather than alert the owner/attendant people fill up their cars, tell family and friends, and even come back with additional gas cans to fill up. For 90 minutes dozens of people filled up on 200-300 gallons worth.

And these people seem to be happy about screwing the owner over?

Am I alone in thinking this is outright theft? Or at least morally disgusting?

I’ll be honest that if something rings up cheaper at Target when I buy it I’ll probably take my savings. But that savings would have to be something like getting a $15 DVD for $12.
But what these people did would be comparable to finding out that $15 DVD rang up for $1.50, went back and bought 4 more, and then called all their friends so they could come and buy the rest of them for $1.50.

Do you consider these people lowlifes for doing such a thing or do you side with them and their reasoning “The gas station made a mistake and I’m just profitting from their mistake. I did nothing illegal. It’s their problem not mine.”

How come this isn’t “morally disgusting”?

Yeah, I agree with Lord Ashtar. The only real difference between the $12 DVD and the $0.35 gas is one of scale; one should be just as wrong as the other.

At any rate, I can’t call the people who bought the cheap gas “disgusting” for what they did. They didn’t do anything illegal, after all. They certainly weren’t acting as good samaritans and can be rebuked for that but then the gas station attendant can just as easily be scolded for being so careless at his job.

Well, I guess everybody draws their own lines.
I’m not into killing puppies or kittens but I have no problem swating flies. Just a matter of degree I guess.

I’m just asking where you would draw the line and how you feel about these folks? Myself? If I was the one to discover it I’d probably fill up first, go inside and alert the owner/attendant about it, ask him if he want’s to charge me the difference. If he felt gracious maybe he’d let me keep the cheap gas.
If someone else told me to rush down there to fill up I seriously wouldn’t go.

This is a difference of two dollars and thousands of dollars. That would be like having someone steal 2 dollars out of your wallet and to give them the same punishment as someone who had robbed a bank. Some might think that the oil companies deserve to be ripped off for their unfair prices, but the fact is that these small gas stations only get a small markup from the cost that they buy the fuel for. I agree with the OP and feel sorry for the people that messed it up.

For all I know, the gas station owner could have been celebrating a birthday, or having a price war with someone, and made the prices that low. A couple of weekends ago there were some gas stations in Florida offering cheap gas…$2.99/gal, if I remember correctly, which WAS cheap a couple of weeks ago. (I filled up for $2.96 this morning.)

I’m sorry, but if you’ve got fifty squintillion people lining up to buy gas, and people are throwing a $5 bill on the counter and saying “fill 'er up,” and you don’t tumble to what’s happening, well…

I get that there’s a difference in the amount of money. I was just wondering why stealing from Target is okay but stealing from a gas station is not.

The point was about the dollar difference not the business name.
Change “Target” to “Joe-Bob’s Gas (and DVDs!)” in my example then.

In the Target example, you are likely paying the price Target paid for it, or over.

In the gas example, the station owner is losing not only his markup, but 90% of the price he paid for the product.

IMO there is a difference.

If I’m aware that something has been rung up for less than it should be I will alert the cashier. If the cashier does nothing, I won’t go further out of my way to make it right.

A few years ago I went to Walmart and bought a 5 gallon water bottle (refillable.) The sign said 4.99 for the bottle, 0.99 for fillups. At the register it rang at 0.99. I told the cashier and she told me that it rang up what it rang up.

I would have told someone at the gas station.

I think that companies know that there are going to be screw ups, and include a certain amount in their budgets for eventual write offs. In this case, if the clerk was taking payments he should’ve known couldn’t be right. He should’ve checked on it. It’s not stealing when they’ve made an error because they’ve priced something incorrectly. It’s ean error. Their error. We all pay for our mistakes and hopefully learn a lesson.


If the price is $3.54 on the sign and $0.35 at the pump then the right thing to do is inform the seller, since 99% odds the gas station fucked up. So I think it’s wrong, but I wouldn’t really call this “stealing” so much as taking advantage of the seller’s mistake. Stealing is taking something without permission, if the customers used pay-at-the-pump with a valid credit card then I would say they had the station’s permission to pump gas.

It’s not theft. The customer does not have to worry why the price has been set too low: that’s the seller’s problem.

I was always under the impression that gas stations didn’t make that much money on the gasoline, that most of their earnings came from having a convenience store, an automatic carwash, and/or a service station attached.

We need to get a lawyer in here but I don’t think that you’re correct. If a reasonable person should have known that it was a mistake, it’s theft. If they screwed up by a few cents, there is now way someone could have known. In this case they were off by a factor of ten and were calling their friends to also take advantage.

Now you come up with as many ridiculous hypotheticals as you want like “maybe they were doing a wacky promotion” but you would have known damn well that there was a mistake.

Taking that gas was clearly unethical. It’s pretty small on the grand scale of things but unethical nevertheless.

I recall an anecdote that someone shared here once. A large screen TV from Best Buy or something was mistakenly delivered to the wrong address. The people, knowing that it was a mistake, kept it. The police had to be called to get the indignant assholes to give it back. They were sure that they were entitled to it since it was given to them.

Why are you looking for a lawyer to help with an ethics question? Lawyers deal with the law, and in this case you don’t need a lawyer. It isn’t illegal.

Giles said that it wasn’t theft. I think that it is theft and therefore illegal. A lawyer could settle that. Right?

You’re correct. Gas stations usually make no money from the gas they sell, and gas stations who are competing with other, nearby gas stations regularly sell at a** loss **in order to get more customers moving through the store, in hopes of buying other things. I’ve seen one gas station sell gas at rates that were so low that it was obvious that they were taking a hit, and when you pulled up to fill up, you’d find the credit/debit functionality on all of the pumps mysteriously not working; you had to go in the store to pay.

You could argue that the owner of the gas station was acting unethically.

But it’s not about opinion. You don’t need a lawyer to settle it. The owner sets the price, you pay the price (if you are so inclined). End of transaction. There is no law that says you have to interpret what the owner meant to sell the gas for. It is not theft becuase in order to break a law, a law must be in place to be broken.