On one recent morning, two people were sitting on a bench at a gas station in central Ohio.
The gas station’s owner had stopped by for an early morning run, and he’d ordered two water meters, which cost $4.
The meters were empty, so he put them in his car.
They were the same size as a small bottle of water, and they had a small green LED screen.
As they sat on the bench, one of the men asked the other: Why did you get them?
They both told the same story: They were going to buy more gas.
It was only the fourth water meter he’d purchased since joining the company.
The second man said, “I got them for $4.”
“You got a free water meter for free?” asked the first.
The second asked: Are you saying you’re taking money from customers?
“No,” said the first, who then walked off.
This is a recurring theme in the stories of people who don’t buy the water meter.
In fact, a recent study by the American Energy Alliance found that just two of nearly 40 gas stations that have purchased the devices said customers didn’t pay them to use the water.
In addition, many of the stations don’t give customers the option to cancel their water usage.
Some customers say the meters can be confusing and that they don’t understand the terms.
“You can’t go back to the tap and get a refund,” said one customer who asked that her name not be used because she’s a woman.
“It’s not fair,” said another.
But some customers say that if they were paying for a service that was actually provided, they would understand the meter.
“The meters are for people to understand what they are paying for,” said a gas technician who asked to remain anonymous because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
The two men were shocked when they walked out of the store, and one of them decided to call his local paper, the Cincinnati Enquirer.
“They say they’re going to be here for a long time, and then they take the meter away,” he said.
“We have no idea what to do.”
He said the company will not reimburse customers for the meters.
The company is looking into the issue and has not yet returned my calls.
In another case, a woman called her local paper to say she was charged $15.95 for a water meter that wasn’t in her account.
She was surprised to see that her water meter had been turned off and had no charge on it.
She called the company, but the company said the meter had never been turned on and it was not part of her account because she didn’t use the service.
“Why would I pay for a meter if it wasn’t going to help me?” she asked.
The woman said she had no choice but to call the newspaper.
“At least they did the right thing,” she said.