Recent Steering You Right articles

  • Rental car crash, Part two
  • Rental car crash, Part one
  • The proof is in the paperwork
  • By Jordan W. Charness

    “It’s getting harder and harder to put gas in my tank” complained Peter. “When I bought a car with a 95-litre tank it never occurred to me that things would be so difficult.”

    “I know what you mean” I said sympathizing with Peter sentiments. “With the price of gasoline climbing into the stratosphere it must cost you a fortune to fill up your car.”

    “The price is only the half of it,” he continued. “The fact is I don’t really have the manual dexterity to be a gas jockey. With these high prices those numbers spin around so quickly that I can almost never stop the nozzle at exactly the amount of dollars worth of gas that I want to put into the car. I’m always over by a few pennies and you know how much I hate carrying extra change around!”

    Peter’s abhorrence of carrying pockets full of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters has only been exacerbated by the introduction of loonies and toonies. Even though these coins replaced bills several years ago, Peter, like many of us, will do anything he can so as not to have to carry around an extra $4.99 in loose change. It was just this practice that had recently landed him in hot water.

    While trying to put exactly $25 worth of gas in his car, he spun past the number he was aiming at and only managed to stop the nozzle at $25.07. Knowing full well that he did not have any change with him and that legally he would be obligated to pay the full amount listed on the pump he decided to put exactly $30 worth of gas in his car instead. It took him one more try before he managed to land a price on exactly $35.

    Smugly happy with his newfound skill he went to pay the cashier the $35 that he owed. When he got to the cash he remembered that he only had $25 in his pocket! Sighing in resignation he reached for his wallet to pay with his credit card. Since it was one of those days, Peter found that he had left his wallet at home.

    Rather sheepishly, he explained his predicament to the young person behind the cash. He suggested that Peter call home and have someone ring him some money. A great idea, except for the fact that no one was home and he couldn’t reach his wife on her cell phone.

    Peter offered to pay the $25 and go home and get some more money promising the cashier that he would only be gone for a maximum of 10 minutes. The cashier quite rightly replied that if Peter left without paying he would be obligated to call the police. Furthermore since Peter did not have his wallet he could not leave any identification behind except for the tapes that are made at all self-serve gas stations to prevent theft.

    Technically and legally the cashier was correct. Failing to pay for part or all of the gasoline that you have pumped into your vehicle is a Criminal Code offense known as theft under $5,000 which is punishable by a fine of up to $2000 and/or a maximum of six months in jail.

    Peter was clearly in the wrong even though he had no intention of committing a crime. If he left the scene he would be in trouble and if he stayed there he would never be able to leave without coming up with the missing $10. Since he was not refusing to pay the police could not technically be called until he left but they would surely be waiting for him upon his return. That is, if they didn’t track him down by his license plate number and visit him at home.

    In desperation, Peter offered to leave his leather jacket as a pledge to guarantee his return with the 10 bucks. Although this seems logical, it further confused an already tense situation. Fortunately, a total stranger and good Samaritan offered to pay the $10 to the cashier and followed Peter home to be repaid and end the whole story on a positive note. Surely, however, the situation proved Peter’s original statement that, “it’s getting harder and harder putting gas in his tank these days”!

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