Confusion at the gas pump

12 days ago
last modified: 12 days ago

This morning I stopped at an Arco station on my way back to Los Angeles from Cathedral City, although I really did not absolutely need gas, but I wanted to have a full tank so that I would have plenty when I got back home. I don't buy gas that often, and I do not think that I have bought gas at this station before, and I found the instructions at the pump a bit confusing.

First of all, I could not find where to insert my card. In the center of the pump there was a screen that had messages on it, and so I tried putting my card in the slot just below this screen. At first the screen said that there was an error, but I adjusted my card in the slot, and then I got a message that said "Card Reader Activated" or something like that - I can't remember exactly.

Then on the screen, I was given a pop quiz, and the pump was asking me where the 1896 Olympics were held. I know that two of the options were Rome and Athens, and so I chose Rome, which happened to be the wrong answer, and so I thought the pump was going to refuse to let me have any gas.

At this point I took my card out and thought that I was going to have to go to a different pump and take the quiz again, now that I knew what the correct answer was, but I happened to notice that there was a large, hinged plastic cover to the right of the screen, which was protecting a keypad, and so I lifted the huge plastic cover and discovered another place for me to insert my card.

When I inserted my card this time, the screen asked me whether I wanted to use my card as debit or credit, and I chose debit. Then it told me that there would be a 35¢ charge for a debit purchase, and I had to agree to this, even though I objected to this charge. I could understand a charge for a credit purchase, but I did not know why it was charging me to use a debit card.

After I agreed to the 35¢ charge, it asked me for my security number, which I entered, and then I was able to pump the gas.

All of this took a lot longer than I had expected it to take.

Now that I am in my bedroom in L.A. and was trying to go to sleep, I started thinking about what had happened at the Arco station, and I began to wonder if the slot that I had accidentally put the card into and which had forced me to take a quiz was in reality a skimming scheme. So I checked my bank account, and there were no withdrawals or purchases that I had not made, but I still wonder why the gas station was making take a quiz.

Did I compromise my card by putting it into the quiz slot? I would never deliberately play a game like this at a gas station, and it never takes me all that long to pump gas.

I was only able to put six gallons in my tank, and this was the first time that I had bought gas for my car since I left L.A. five weeks ago. I did a little driving in Palm Springs while I was there and still had well over half a tank left.

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