The Gasoline Pump "Y2K" Problem
Here in San Mateo County, many gas stations are starting to sport prices above $4.00 per gallon. The trusty Gas and Shop down the street is still holding on to $3.93 per gallon but it seems inevitable that gas will cross that $4.00 mark. Funnily enough, some of the older gas pumps around the country in rural areas are experiencing a technical issue similar to the Y2K problem. Basically, these pumps were not designed to charge more than $4.00 a gallon.
In this article from the Seattle PI , we find a garage owner who has pumps that only charge up to $3.99 9/10. He bought them brand new in 1995 and it would cost him thousands of dollars to upgrade so for now he is informing his customers that the pump price is incorrect. The article also points out that it is illegal to operate pumps that do not display and tally the correct price, but the government understands the situation now and is giving the pump owners ample time to fix the situation.
Now you may be thinking, wow those pump makers are dumb! However, the fact is in 1995 noone expected to charge $4.00 for a gallon of gas. The average price of a gallon of gas was around $1.20 in California in 1995 and the people who made the pump probably figured their pumps would not be in service long enough for gasoline to climb to $4.00. Since the pump uses mechanical computers, adding a number is more difficult than it looks.
So the next time you drive down a dusty highway in the middle of nowhere and find one of these older pumps, make sure you find out what the real price of gas is.