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Gas Theft Persists Despite Dropping Prices

Last week when I left work and found my gas door open, it confirmed something I’d suspected for the last few months: someone has been stealing my gas.

In midsummer, around the time gas prices neared their peak, I began noticing tiny drops in the gas needle between when I arrived at work and when I left (only some days of the week). But since the measurements are so imprecise and there was never a large amount missing, I thought it must be some kind of paranoia on my part and simply ignored it.

However, finding my gas door open meant that it must have been pried, since we can only open it from inside the car. I turned on the car and saw that the fuel gauge had dipped again. So I talked to our groundskeeper and discovered that several patrons had suspected their gas was taken too. He said that it was probably taken in small quantities because they didn’t want to cause suspicion by lingering too long. Plus, they probably use a small carrier to move faster.

We filled out a formal incident report with the library. I don’t know if it’ll do much but it’ll be reported to the police.

To prevent casual gas theft in the future, I bought a locking gas cap. A really determined person could get past it by either having some kind of master key or by really breaking it.

But given how these thieves have acted, I think they’re about opportunity. They don’t take much at a time, they seem to target cars in the far end of the lot (where I had parked as a courtesy to patrons…I confess I’ve moved closer to the library now), they’re probably going to move on to the next car.

A part of me wanted to say “whatever” since they’re not taking more than $2 at a time and a locking gas cap costs about $15. But a gallon (2 thefts) a week, even now that our gas is under $3, will still add up to more than that over 6 weeks. Since I can’t be sure what they’re taking, it might save money even sooner.

At least I can consider myself fortunate that they never emptied my tank and left me stranded. In fact, the whole thing probably cost something like $30 plus $15 for the gas cap.

Have you had to deal with gas theft? How much was taken and what did you do about it?

Photo courtesy of mandj98.

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National Steal-From-Mrs.-Micah Month
October 23, 2008 at 4:33 pm

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Marsadie October 20, 2008 at 11:49 am

I wrote about this precisely a few months back. I think a locking gas cap is your best bet; I’m glad that you were able to confirm your hunches and went out to pick one up.

Dawn October 20, 2008 at 11:54 am

Wow! You are the first person I have heard of that has had to deal with that – though, I have admit, I don’t think it is too surprising. Glad you caught it though, they had no idea how much was in your tank and could have left you in a fix.

Laura October 20, 2008 at 12:38 pm

I heard about it, but haven’t had to deal with it (yet). I’m glad you got a locking gas cap.

Budgets are Sexy October 20, 2008 at 12:50 pm

what a jerk!!! i seriously don’t understand people sometimes….it reminds me of those people who would literally kill someone for talking about their girlfriend or mother, yet they’ll go around disrespecting girls themselves…losers.

Amber C October 20, 2008 at 1:21 pm

I have heard of this before but didn’t realize that people would actually do this. I agree buying a locking cap is a good idea.

mrsmicah October 20, 2008 at 3:44 pm

I’m guessing that it’s kids who can’t afford gas for their cars…but who knows, it might be connected to a whole black market. Either way, it’s a pretty risky proposition as the police drop by our library a couple times a day.

MrsMoney October 20, 2008 at 7:56 pm

OH MY GOSH!! That is horrible!! I can’t even believe someone would do that. I am so sorry! Good for you buying a locking gas cap. I hope they find out who is doing that. Wow.

dogatemyfinances October 20, 2008 at 8:10 pm

Wow, that’s crazy. I’m thinking about buying one of those too since I have to park on the street.

Jessica October 20, 2008 at 9:31 pm

I’ve been wondering if this has been happening to me too-I’ve thought a couple times that my gas seemed lower than it should. And my car is parked in a similar way yours is at work-easy enough for someone to steal.

The only thing is that my gas door has to be opened by a latch from the inside of the car, so I can’t imagine that it could be forced open…or could it?

Does your car have a door that doesn’t need to be released?

mrsmicah October 20, 2008 at 10:17 pm

@Jessica, I e-mailed you too, but I wanted to clarify that our gas door is also latched from the inside. Getting it open requires prying, which is why I saw the open door as confirmation vs. as a fluke.

Hank October 21, 2008 at 10:38 am

My mom was a public school teacher and had a locking gas cap on her car for decades. She was always worried that a student she had flunked would put sugar in her gas tank. But, I can see how a locking gas cap could be used now. Just think though…that $15 investment will last you for years and years right through our next recession!

Kacie October 21, 2008 at 2:20 pm

That’s terrible! I’m glad you got a locking cap and I hope that’s the end of that.

Jim October 21, 2008 at 10:51 pm

Also, if your car has a trip meter, reset it to zero at each fill up, assuming you fill up your tank when completely empty. 2 gals of gas would be about 40-50 miles less range per fill up.

Student Scrooge October 22, 2008 at 4:35 pm

Wow, unbelievable. A couple of months? Thats a pretty gutsy thief — but bravo to you for catching on. It probably would have taken me much longer.

It’s a shame what people will do…

Zhu October 22, 2008 at 10:18 pm

I have seriously never heard of that.

I mean, I have heard of people filling up at the station and leaving without paying but not stealing gas from other cars.

I guess it does add up… it sucks.

fathersez November 11, 2008 at 7:35 am

Wow! I have also never heard about this. Seems to be quite a lot of trouble to go through for the $2 of gas.

But whole sale stealing from lorries, I have heard and seen. Some of the lorry drivers we employed when in India would drive the lorries to some quiet place and siphon out almost half daily.

The mileage records caught them out finally.

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