UPDATE: Monday, April 23, 5:48 p.m.—
Jacqueline Eskanian tells Woburn Patch that she operates the two King Gas stations on Main Street in Woburn through a legal entity that is not King Petroleum, Inc.
In an email to Woburn Patch, Eskanian said her company running the Main Street stations “sells a good product and does not scam its customers.”
Thursday, April 19, 5:48 a.m.—
You leave your house and realize your car's gas gauge is on "E." You have $20 in your wallet and think to yourself, 'I'll pick up $20 now and fill my tank later.' But when you pull into the gas station, the attendant gives you $40 instead of the $20 you requested. And then demands payment.
Has this happened to you?
It's happening to many people at the King Petroleum gas stations in Woburn. And the has taken notice.
In the last month, Woburn Police officers have been called to King Gas five times, including yesterday. In each instance, there was a discrepancy in how much gas was asked for, and how much gas was given to the customer. In each instance, the customer was a woman.
King Petroleum, which has gas stations in Woburn, Malden, Medford and Dedham, is a registered "domestic for-profit corporation" with headquarters at 84 Myopia Road in Winchester. Jacqueline Eskanian took over the business from her father, Tony, in 2007.
The gas stations often boast the lowest prices in the community, no matter where they are, and only take cash to keep prices lower.
But police reports involving payment problems between King Gas attendants and customers date back to April of 2011 on Woburn Patch and have increased more frequently in 2012.
And that's not the only place that complaints have surfaced.
The Better Business Bureau reports King Gas is not accredited with the BBB. The consumer advocate organization has closed one complaint regarding King Petroleum in the last three years after the BBB "did not receive a response from [the] business."
One woman took her complaint to the Internet, posting a review on popular rating site Yelp. The Somerville woman posted on Oct. 9, 2011 that a Woburn King Gas employee "frightened" her when he allegedly demanded she pay $37 for gasoline pumped into her car after she asked for $20.
"I apologized and said I had asked for $20 and he told me to give him the rest [of the money]," the woman wrote. "I told him that is all I had in cash, but I would count out the change I had in my ashtray and he was welcome to that. He called me a liar, a cheat, a thief."
The Yelp review adds that said the man allegedly said, "Get out of the station and never come back."
A history of problems
It was in 2007 that State Attorney General Martha Coakley fined the Eskanians $600,000 for failure to clean up gas spills and other products at four gas stations in Malden and Medford.
As reported by InsideMedford.com, the fine stemmed from a 2004 lawsuit claiming that King Petroleum was not following the Superfund Law procedures for cleaning up hazardous materials.
However, the appeals court upheld the original judgment in July, 2009.
The city of Medford continued to have problems with King Gas in 2010, when it shut down three gas stations and revoked its business permit. According to a report by Boston.com, the council decided to padlock the King gas pumps saying the business owed over $100,000 in unpaid taxes and $13,000 in fines and fees. The Medford gas stations were reopened within a month after King Gas obtained a Superior Court injunction.
The investigation continues
Woburn Police detectives have spoken to the Eskanians regarding the problems reported at the Main Street stations.
Although the reports are technically civil complaints—a discrepancy between a business owner and a customer—detectives are continuing their investigation.
Police Reports Involving King Gas
As reported by Woburn Patch.
At 5:35 p.m., police responded to King Gas on Main Street for a dispute over payment.
At 6:23 p.m., police were dispatched to the Main Street King Gas station for a dispute between an employee and a customer. According to police, a customer reported paying for $20 in gas, but his gas gauge showed that no gas was pumped. Police spoke to the employee, who said that the customer would have to speak to the manager on Wednesday.
At 10:34 a.m., a Burlington man reported being overcharged for gasoline at King Gas on Main Street. According to the man, the pump malfunctioned and he told the attendant, but the employee did not believe him. Police said, the man told the attendant that his tank was not full, even though the pump said it was. Police said, the man then pulled into another gas station and was able to fill his tank.
At 2 p.m., a North Reading woman reported purchasing $20 in gas from King Petroleum on Main Street. According to police, the woman said she quickly ran out of gas and did not believe that she was given the $20 in gasoline from the attendant.
At 1:33 p.m., a Quincy man reported going to King Gas on Aug. 12 and asking for a fill-up of diesel. The man told police he was given gasoline and his van would not start. After speaking to King Gas employees, the man left his car to be repaired at the gas station’s cost. When the man picked up the vehicle, he told police that there was a fresh dent on the van.
At 6:22 p.m., police were dispatched to King Gas for a report of a civil dispute over money and a credit card machine.
At 5:12 p.m., an elderly Winchester woman called police after a King Petroleum employee told her that it was difficult to pump $10 worth of fuel and she should buy $20. Police will speak to the owner of the gas station.
At 5:22 p.m., a Boston woman reported going to King Gas on Main Street and requesting $50 in gasoline from the attendant. According to the woman, the attendant pumped $62 in gas and demanded payment. The woman told the attendant she would come back tomorrow to pay the extra $12, but reported the incident to police because she did not request the extra $12.
At 5:30 p.m., police received a report from a King Gas attendant who said a woman drove off without paying for gas. An officer spoke to the woman who said she asked for $10 and received $30 of gas. She was unable to pay for the entire order and only paid $10. The woman agreed to return to the gas station and pay for the rest of the gas.
At 5:02 p.m., a Woburn woman reported she went to King Gas on Main Street and asked for $30 in gasoline. After paying for the gas and returning home, the woman told police she realized her gas gauge had not moved. The woman returned to King Gas, according to police, and confronted the attendant, who said that she would have to speak to the manager. Police reported this is one of several complaints against the gas station.
At 4:54 p.m., police were dispatched to the King Gas station. According to police, a woman requested $40 in gasoline from the attendant, but was given $61. The attendant asked the woman for the money, which she did not have. Police told the attendant he could pursue the matter in Woburn District Court.