Fuel pumps and the “Y2K8 crisis”: security feature gone awry

Crude oil at $100/barrel may have been the first psychological barrier for traders. Now long crossed and $150 looming on the horizon, it turns out there is an equivalent one for drivers: the $100 refueling at the friendly local gas station. New York Times reports in the article titled When a tank of gast costs $100 several large trucks and SUVs have enough capacity for hitting the three digits during a refueling stop.

But they often do not quite get there for two reasons. First one is the unwillingness to see the register ringing up that amount. The article cites owners who prefer to refuel long before they are running on fumes, to avoid seeing the full price– and possible wasting more fuel with more frequent visits to the gas station, as well as slightly higher  weight of the car on average from carrying more fuel.

The second one is a “security feature:” many pumps that accept credit cards will shut off at $75 to prevent overcharges as well as stolen cards from being used. It seems strange that a criminal in possession of someone else’s credit card would be going on a shopping spree for fuel. Electronics, jewelry and other high value goods that can pawned off appear as more likely candidates. (Never mind the cartoon strips— these measures have been in place since the times when fuel was relatively inexpensive.)

That’s not the worst limitation: in an echo of the Y2K crisis, it turns out that many older pumps are not capable of registering three digits at all. (No word on whether they simply roll back to $0.00 and start counting from there or getting stuck at $99.99.)


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