Ernie Llamas has become an unexpected and unlikely social media star.
Wednesday, Llamas posted a video to his Facebook page which showed him being charged for gas, even though no fuel was coming out of the pump.
The incident happened at the Exxon station at Weber and South Padre Island Drive. Llamas says despite showing the video to employees inside the Checkout convenience store attached to the station, he was denied a refund.
“I went inside to talk to the ladies, showed them the video, and they said there’s nothing we can do to help you out,” said Llamas.
Records from the Texas Department of Agriculture website show the last time pumps at the station in question were inspected was in December 2014. State Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller tried streamlining the inspection process when he took over in 2015, but last year the state legislature passed a bill which limited the agency’s authority.
“Problem is it took all our inspection authority away from us, that bill did,” said Miller via telephone.
That bill, H.R. 2174, requires a pump to get three complaints within 12 months before the TDA can act.
“The consumers are just getting screwed left and right,” said Miller. “It’s a license to steal, this law is.”
A Checkout official told KRIS 6 News the company is aware of the issue, and ordered staff to inspect the pumps. They found roughly half the pumps weren’t working, which were shut down immediately.
“This station is probably a good operator and wants to do the right thing, doesn’t want to cheat people,” said Miller. “You have mechanical failures, without a doubt.”
Llamas never expected his video to go viral. He says he doesn’t want what happened to him to happen to other drivers.
“It was just about making people aware, you need to pay attention,” said Llamas.
Checkout tried to contact Llamas Thursday to offer him a refund for the gas, as well as a $50 gift card. Llamas says he appreciates the gesture, but will decline the offer.