Customers stop paying for gas - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Customers stop paying for gas

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March 28, 2004

Albany -- As gas prices across the county continue to soar a new trend is starting. People taking off when it's time to pay up at the pump.

Gas station manger Dinesh Patel is watching a robbery in progress. This surveillance video shows the customer in the white Jeep filling his car up with  $35  worth of gas and simply driving away. And as gas prices climb to their highest rates ever, Patel says it's a scene becoming all to common.

"People just don't want to pay the money sometimes they just fill it up and drive away," says Patel.

And what's happening at Patel's store is happening at gas stations across the county. Retailers say gas theft has increased 200 to 300 % in the last few months.

On average most stores expect to loss up to $2,000 a year in stolen gas. Some store owners say they don't pass the cost onto you the customer but rather take it out of store clerk's check. If someone steals gas on clerk Alethea Sheppard's shift the money is deducted from this single mother's salary.

"People shouldn't be stealing gas anyway and for me to have to pay for something someone else stole-- it makes me mad because I work hard for my little money," says Sheppard.

As the summer travel season starts and gas prices reach record highs, gas station owners hope more technology and cameras will help them catch thieves that drive away with their profits.

Patel says he soon plans to pour hundreds of dollars is security up grades.

"We have to do it because every week we loss 80 or 100 dollars because like long term we will be able to afford it," says Patel.

Another costly side effect of skyrocketing gas prices.

Gas station owners say heavy competition stop them from making customers pay before they pump their gas. 25 states have laws that give judges the right to suspend the driver's license in gas theft cases.

posted at 5:23PM by scott.hunter@walb.com