HUDSON, N.H. (AP) – Drivers may think they’ve won the gas lottery when they pull up to Tate’s Garage and see the price on the pump.

But the sign above the pump brings them back to reality.

The garage’s pumps have old-fashioned spinning mechanical dials that date back more than 50 years and don’t go above $3.99 per unit, which until recently was always a gallon. But with gas now above $4 a gallon, the owners had to change the units to half gallons.

Customers must pay double the total on the register.

The Petroleum Equipment Institute of Tulsa, Okla., estimates that 8,000 of the nation’s 170,000 service stations have old mechanical meters that need to be upgraded. That can cost about $650 per pump. Institute vice president Robert Renkes said small stations should buy kits to recalibrate their pumps if they can’t afford to replace them.

“If for no other reason, half pricing is confusing and can be inconvenient for the customer. When I buy gasoline I stop the pump at the dollar amount I want to spend. So let’s say I have $60 to spend and the meter, if it’s on half pricing – reads $31.50 and I forgot to stop it at $30, what do I do?” he said.

A Connecticut company makes conversion kits for mechanical pumps, but is several months behind on orders because of high demand, according to Paul Rousseau, vice president of Wildco Petroleum Equipment company in Dover.

David and Bob Tate told The Telegraph of Nashua that changing the pumps isn’t worth the money.

“The only people making money on gas these days are the big oil companies,” David Tate said. “Not people like us.”

He said most of the garage’s customers are regulars.

“When you factor in everything, we’re not even making a profit on the gasoline. It’s really a service for our regular customers who like to have their gas pumped for them and for someone to wash their windshield. Our main business comes from repairs.”

The Tates are not the only service station in the state with the problem. About 2 percent of the state’s 800 filling stations are in the same position, according to Dennis Marquis, program specialist with the state office of Weights and Measures, which regulates gasoline pumps.

Marquis said half pricing technically does not comply with state law, but the state is aware of the difficulties facing small, independent stations and is giving them a break.

“We’re allowing half pricing as long as the full price per gallon is displayed on the dispenser and everything else beside the number of gallons is blocked out. We suggest using duct tape. And we are asking that the stations either plan on buying new pumps or the conversion kits sometime in the future,” he said.

“But we are not out to put anyone out of business. We have investigators out there and if we see a station half pricing we take a minute to explain what to do for now.”

Information from: The Telegraph,

Information from: The Telegraph,

AP-ES-07-14-08 1101EDT

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