August 2011: Fourteen months ago, I posted a story called The great Orlando gas scam, noting that a few stations close to the Orlando airport overcharge customers about $2 per gallon, making a shady dollar off tourists who rent a car and must fill up the tank before returning it. At that time, Orlando city officials had a new law mandating that gas stations post a road sign with gas prices. Failing that, the gas station would be charged a daily fine. It wasn’t just altruism – a positive opinion of Orlando turns negative quickly when a local gas station picks vacationers’ pockets on their way home.
However, tourists are still getting scammed.
Two gas stations on 436, the road that leads directly to the Orlando airport from the north, have been levied the $250 per day fine since May 2010;
they collectively owe about $43,000, according to research done by The Orlando Sentinel. They sued in court to nix the sign law but lost yesterday. The judge, however, cancelled all existing gas station fines and gave the two stations 90 more days to post their gas prices out front. (In a sense, that means the gas stations won even though they lost.)
The ruling does two things. First, anyone renting a car in Orlando through October 2011 could pull into one of these gas stations and get ripped off. And two, the clock has been reset. If the two stations thumbed their nose at $250 per day for 15 months, they will probably thumb their nose again when the fines start sometime in early November. That means an end is not in sight, and while the judge’s ruling allows the city to put a lien on the properties and foreclose, it’s just as likely that another case – or an appeal – will kick the issue down the road for a few more years.
So the advice remains the same: If you rent a car, fill it up near your hotel. The airport – no more than 20 minutes or so from most hotels – will still register a full tank of gas when you drop it off. Avoid any gas station that doesn’t post per-gallon gas prices out front.
And if you pass two gas stations close to the Orlando airport and make an unfriendly hand gesture in their general direction, no one in will blame you.