14-cent difference costs north Alabama gas station owner his only working pump

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ARAB, Ala. (WHNT) - Fourteen cents. That was what led to a destroyed pump at a Marshall County gas station.

It happened just after 10:00 Wednesday morning at Don's Convenience Store on Highway 69 in Arab. Robert Starkey has owned the station for more than 16 years and he caught it all on camera.

The surveillance video shows a woman enter the store and pay at the register. Starkey said she prepaid for about five dollars worth of gas.

"This particular gas station does not take debit cards or credit cards," said Arab Police Chief Ed Ralston. "That's what he's known for is just those old-timey pumps."

The pumps are analog, so they do not have an automatic shut-off. If a customer prepays and exceeds the amount, the customer is then expected to pay the remaining difference.

In the video, you can see a man begin pumping gas at the car. The woman exits the store and takes over at the pump. Shortly after, she opens the passenger door and starts rummaging through the car.

After a few seconds, she shuts the door and the two drive away with the nozzle still in the tank, ripping the pump from the foundation. They stop for a moment, but then speed off.

Starkey said the woman exceeded her prepaid amount by just 14 cents.

"If you would walk in there and say, 'I don't have 14 cents, I'll be back. Here's my driver's license or you know who I am.' He will let you do it," said Chief Ralston of Starkey.

He said the difference in pennies will likely cost the culprits their drivers' licenses and so much more.

"Now, you're facing jail time, the warrant, court costs, it's going to add up to almost probably a thousand dollars, if not more than that, by the time all this is done."

Starkey said he typically makes about $1,000 per day in gas sales. The destroyed pump was his only working one. Now his business will continue to lose money until it is fixed. He said he has insurance, but the repairs costs will likely be less than his deductible. He will likely pay for the repairs out of his own pocket.

Despite the hit his business is taking, Starkey said he will not raise gas prices once his pump is back up and running.

Chief Ralston said the Arab Police Department checked the area to make sure there were not any additional issues or concerns.

"There was no gas run-off or leakage, anything like that. The pipe apparently was able to shut itself off and the damages that they're looking at are probably several hundred dollars."

As for the folks in the vehicle, Chief Ralston said his department got a good look at them thanks to Starkey's surveillance video.

"That helped us. That allowed us to see who it was and hopefully, they'll come forward before we have to pursue looking for them."