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Gas Stations Fight Pump-and-Runs

WASHINGTON -- As gas prices across the United States hover near record highs, businesses and lawmakers are taking creative steps to stop drivers who pump and don't pay, reported the USA Today.

It's a serious issue that gets worse as prices rise. The national average for a gallon of unleaded regular gas is $1.91, according to motorist club AAA, nearly 40 cents higher than a year ago.

In 2003, gas station owners lost $112 million in pump-and-runs, up about $10 million from 2001. That amounts to more than $1,000 per store lost last year, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores.

"The gasoline thefts are absolutely out of control," said Mike Thornbrugh, manager of public and government affairs at Tulsa, Okla.-based QuikTrip. He added that in its last fiscal year, QuikTrip lost $4 million in gas thefts, up $1 million from the prior year, in just the Tulsa area.

QuikTrip is testing a program in Tulsa that requires drivers who want to pay cash to submit their driver's license numbers to cashiers. Drivers are then given a card with their information on it to swipe every time before they pump gas. Without the card, the pump will not turn on.

Earlier this year, Mount Pleasant, S.C., made prepaying mandatory at all gas stations for those paying cash. Milwaukee is scheduled to vote in September to make prepaying mandatory.

Sheetz is testing pumps at three stations that allow drivers to feed their money into a bill collector in the pump.
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