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Weights-Measures-FAQs


The Department of Consumer Affairs, Weights and Measures Division is working to provide consumer protection and create a fair and honest marketplace through education and enforcement. If you do not see an answer to your question below, please contact us at (216) 443-7010.

Question: I filled up at the gas station yesterday and put 15 gallons of gas in my tank. However, when I got to the station, my fuel gauge still was on 1/4 of a tank and my owner’s manual says the tank only holds 16 gallons. How can this be? I think the pump must be in error.

Answer.
This is the most common complaint we receive, and the short answer is that all tanks are not created equal. The stated capacity of your gas tank in your owner's manual is often more of an approximation than a fact. A major manufacturer may buy fuel tanks from a variety of suppliers, all of which may hold either a little more or a little less than the stated capacity. Also, the volume of fuel contained in the filler tube will  vary. The Weights and Measures Division will investigate all complaints received. For a detailed explanation of why the pumped volume of fuel may be greater (or less) than the rated capacity of your automobile gas tank, refer to the following article in the August 2005 NIST Weights and Measures Quarterly.
Read article(pdf)


Question:
How can I make sure I’m getting what I pay for when I’m buying gasoline?

Answer. At a self service station, make sure the pump starts at zero and the price being charged agrees with the price advertised on the signs in the station. A good way to check this is to stop the pump at one gallon and compare the prices/at full service stations, be sure to check all of the above and also make sure you are getting the grade of gasoline you asked for; if you asked for regular, make sure they’re not giving you premium at a higher price. When the sale is done, make sure the amount you pay the attendant agrees with the amount shown on the pump.

With regards to gas cans, we often receive calls from residents who paid for more than two gallons worth of gas and wonder if they were cheated. Usually the gas can is to blame, since they are generally inaccurate in measurement. Gas cans are "approximates." If you have a two-gallon can, it may actually take a little more or a little less to fill the can up.

Question: How can I protect myself when buying firewood?

Answer. Firewood is sold by a measurement called a "cord." A cord must equal 128 cubic feet. To be sure you have a cord, stack the wood neatly by placing the wood in a line or a row, with individual pieces touching and parallel to each other, making sure that the wood is compact and has as few gaps as possible. Then measure the stack. If the width times the height times the length equals 128 cubic feet, you have a cord of firewood. A cord, like other measurements such as a foot, a gallon, or a ton, is defined by law. A seller may not legitimately use terms such as "truckload," "face cord," "rack," "rick," or "pile" because these terms have no legally defined meaning and, therefore, you have no way of determining how much firewood you are actually receiving. If a seller uses such terms it should
alert you to a possible problem. Wood can only be sold by the cord or by fractions of a cord.

When you buy firewood make sure to get a receipt which shows the seller's name and address; as well as the price, amount, and kind of wood purchased. If possible, get the seller's phone number and write down the license plate number of the delivery vehicle. When the wood is delivered, ask the seller to stack it (you may have to pay extra for this service) or stack the wood yourself. Measure the wood before using any. If the cubic measurement indicates that you did not receive the correct volume, contact the seller before you burn any wood.

Question:
How often do inspectors check scanners, test scales, and check gas pumps?

Answer. Every measuring device is checked, tested, and sealed for accuracy. Inspections are unannounced and approximately 10,000 commercial devices are tested annually by Weights and Measures inspectors.

Question:
What should I do if an item is scanned at the wrong price?

Answer. Ask the cashier to do a price check on the item and detail where the item was picked up. The store should have a clerk go to the aisle or display where you found the item, verify the price, and explain the apparent discrepancy. According to law, the price posted is the correct price, regardless of the expiration of the sale period, and regardless of any expiration date marked on the shelf tag or sign. Most businesses have a policy and procedure to correct pricing errors immediately. Often stores will post at the checkouts and other places their “scan guarantee” and its limitations. If you are not satisfied with the price explanation, still feel that you were overcharged, contact the Weights and Measures Division and file a complaint.

Question: When I buy products at the deli counter, am I paying for the container? How would I know?

Answer. Any type of deli item must be sold on a net weight basis. The weight of the container is called "tare" and is not included in the net weight. Almost all scales now in use at deli counters are of the digital computing type and show the weight of the product, the price per pound, and the total selling price on a digital display that faces the customer. Additionally, the customary practice in most stores is to assign a store code to each item. Information included in this code, which is stored in the scale, contains the name of the item, the price per pound, and the correct tare weight for the container which should be used. So when you want to purchase an item, the counter person will enter the store code for your item and the display panel will show the selling price and the weight display should show a negative number which represents the container or tare weight being zeroed off the scale. If you do not see this negative number displayed when the code is entered, you may be paying for the container and should report this to the Weights and Measures Division.

Question: What is an octane rating and why is it important?

Answer. Octane number is a measure of gasoline's antiknock performance - its ability to resist knocking (a metallic pinging sound) as it burns in a vehicle's engine. When you compare gasoline  prices among stations, be careful to compare prices for the same octane. Using high octane gasoline in an engine that is designed for a lower octane is usually not recommended unless your engine knocks. Check your vehicle owner's manual to see which octane the manufacturer recommends.

Question:
What are “oxygenated and reformulated” gasoline?

Answer.
Oxygenated gasoline is conventional gasoline to which chemicals that are rich in oxygen have been added. This increases the octane and/or meets clean air regulations to help reduce carbon monoxide exhaust emissions. Oxygenated gasoline is required during winter months in those metropolitan areas that do not meet the Federal air quality standard for carbon monoxide. The most common oxygenates used are methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) and ethanol (alcohol). Oxygenated gasoline performs as well as conventional gasoline in most vehicles. Reformulated gasoline (RFG) is gasoline blended to reduce potentially harmful emissions from vehicles. The Federal Government issues regulations that specify characteristics of the gasoline. If you have questions about the use of oxygenated gasoline or reformulated gasoline (RFG), in your vehicle, consult the owner's manual.