Barnstable Weights & Measures--keeping it equitable

Annual inspection guards consumers against jumps and creeps
Barnstable Weights and Measures inspects gas pumps on Route 134 in South Dennis. Photo by Maggie Kulbokas.

A Barnstable Weights and Measures team of inspectors was out Thursday checking the gas pumps at Cumberland Farms on Route 134 in South Dennis. At first glance it may seem odd to see a Barnstable town truck and employees working in Dennis. But Barnstable's Weights and Measures Program not only regulates equipment in the Town of Barnstable, but in the towns of Bourne, Brewster, Dennis, Harwich, Mashpee, Orleans, Sandwich and Yarmouth.

Barnstable's Weights and Measures Program is under the jurisdiction of the town's Consumer Affairs Division which is under the town's Regulatory Services Department. The Massachusetts Division of Standards, under the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation oversees the local programs. The program is a member of the MA Weights and Measures Association and the National Conference on Weights and Measures.

Weights and Measures is responsible for regulating anything that weighs or measures consumer products--everything from gas pumps to deli scales.

During a gas station pump inspection, Weights and Measures inspectors review several points beginning with a visual inspection. According to the program's website, each year, inspector's check each individual gas pump under the program's jurisdiction. Following a visual inspection for cracks and leaks and to make sure the prices posted on the pump match the prices on the digital display, the inspectors check each grade of fuel by pumping gasoline into a regulatory on their truck. They also test the anti-drain nozzle mechanism (the thing that automatically clicks off the pump so you don't spill gas all over your vehicle and the ground). 

Next, inspectors make sure you the consumer are getting what you pay for by checking for jumps and creeps. A jump occurs when either the purchase or fuel amount "jumps" before you even trigger the nozzle.  A creep occurs when you hang up the nozzle and either of those readouts continues to advance.  Jumps and creeps can mean a lot of extra gas consumers are paying for and not getting.

According to the Barnstable Weights and Measures produced video entitled "That Equity May Prevail", $518,838, 230 in gasoline was sold in ten towns on Cape Cod in 2010. Inspectors checked 1,487 gas pumps in those tens towns. Of those pumps, 102 required adjustments, saving consumers and gas station owners $136,034 in fuel costs.

"Buyer beware" isn't enough says National Conference on Weights and Measures Chair John Gaccione. "Consumers cannot possibly protect themselves from inaccuracies in weighing and measurement. The same applies to business owners who rely on a level playing field if they are to make an honest profit," said Gaccione in a statement.

The first weighs and measures law was signed by President John Adams on March 2, 1799, according to the MA Division of Standards. That event is commemorated each year during Weights and Measures Week in March.

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