February 1, 2024

Dispenser Pulsar Tampering Could Cost You Plenty

Plan for the worst and hope for the best. We have all heard that expression before, and it's applicable in nearly every facet of life – and business.

That kind of preventative thinking came to mind over the weekend, following a news story that a New Jersey resident stole over $1,700 in fuel from a station in Delaware.  

You can learn more about the incident HERE.

Learning of the theft in Delaware immediately compelled us to reach out to our colleagues at the State Office of Weights & Measures to inquire if similar devices have been found in New Jersey, and what station owners could do to prevent them.

The answer is not entirely simple, but it does hinge on a very basic premise: Get familiar with what the inside of your dispensers look like, then check them often.

The reason for this underscores the fact that those seeking to steal from your business (and your patrons) have become very sophisticated. The tools they use will visually blend into the ordinary mechanisms inside your pumps. This means that the only way you'll notice if something is "wrong" is by visually inspecting your equipment to note when something "looks different" than it previously did.

Pump tampering is not new, and in most past instances, thieves focused on credit card skimmers on the outside of your dispensers. We've all read stories on this phenomenon, here in New Jersey and beyond. Now, bad actors have evolved their techniques and are now using "pulsar manipulation" inside dispensers to steal from their unperceived victims.

Unlike credit card skimmers, which directly steal payment information from your patrons, modified pulsars harm your business directly. This is done by modifying, slowing, or blocking the signal inside the pump. That is, the signal is manipulated in-between the mechanical components and the electronic components. This interferes with the dispenser's ability to compute a sale.

What do tampered pumps look like?  They might look very ordinary; unless you know what you're looking for.  

Looking at the photos below, you can see:

In Photo 1: A rubber tube was slipped over a piece of the pulsar.  This allowed the mechanical part to spin freely but slows down the corresponding gear that is attached to the electronic component. This method is "always on", meaning that every sale is affected; pumping product at an ordinary rate, but slowing the corresponding pump price.

In Photo 2: A homemade electric device was placed inside the pump.  The big "tell" that something was wrong is that the device is placed with a wood base (there should never be something made of wood inside a dispenser cabinet). You can see the tampered, modified pulsar sitting atop the wood base. The device allows the mechanical part to spin freely, and mimics the pulse count to the electronic component of the gas pump. Just as in Photo 1, the physical pumping might be unaffected, but the pump price will climb at a slower rate, permitting the thief to steal product at a fraction of the true sale price. This method can be turned on or off with a remote control (and thus, is obviously more sophisticated than the method used in Photo 1). 

In Photo 3: We see a normal, unmodified fuel pulsar and where it is placed within the dispenser cabinet. It should be noted that this looks "normal" for this dispenser, but every specific brand and model has a different internal layout.

The good news is that this form of theft is not as common in New Jersey, though it has become prevalent in southern states over the last year or so. Of those pumps that have been tampered with, most seem to be Gilbarco branded dispensers.

So, what can be done to stop this from happening?  Every location is different, but here are three potential solutions to research and investigate:

Strategy 1 - Familiarity and pictures: Looking back at our comment above, you should get familiar with the internal layout of your dispensers.  Make sure that you know where the pulsars are, what they look like, and how they are positioned. Then take pictures of the inside of your pumps so you can refer back to them. If you see something inside the pump that looks suspicious, look at the pictures and compare. If all else fails, call an experienced technician to get a professional opinion.

Strategy 2 - Changing OEM dispenser locks:  Investigate changing out the standard, OEM pump locks. Thieves need access to the inside of the dispenser in order to modify and tamper with the pulsars. If they cannot get inside, they cannot carry out the theft. Most OEMs outfit their dispensers with standard keys, copies of which can be easily purchased on the internet. In most cases, that is how bad actors get into the dispensers to begin with. Consult a professional about changing the locks and keys, and stop them from gaining access.

Strategy 3 - Metal pulsar bars: Investigate the possibility of installing a metal bar on top of the pulsars so they can’t be tampered with.  This is something that should be done with the assistance of an experienced technician.

Have you caught someone tampering with your pump dispensers?  Have you implemented one of these possible solutions to guard against potential theft?  Let us know so we can share your experiences with other members and help station owners protect their small businesses. As always you can talk to Nick@njgca.org or Joe@njgca.org 732-256-9646

NJ Tax Increases Coming?

Gov. Murphy now has just less than two years remaining in his term as Governor. Three months ago Democrats expanded their majorities in the Legislature, which they have controlled the last twenty years. Now with expenses increasing from inflation and revenues declining, there is growing talk of a series of tax and fee increases coming in the next few months. 

The most important to us is an increase in the gas tax. In 2016 the gas tax was increased 22.6¢ a gallon as part of a deal to fund the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) and make a variety of other changes to the tax code (including eliminating the NJ estate tax). In the years since we've seen the gas tax go up (and occasionally down) because of the annual gas tax adjustments that were created in the 2016 TTF tax deal. There has been a net 5.2¢ a gallon increase in the tax on gas and diesel in the years since, as consumption has dropped. 

Now the TTF's borrowing authorization needs to be extended again this year, and that has legislators and the Governor looking at another gas tax increase. Everything we've heard is that any further increase will be small, and not near the last increase from 2016. Still, small to us would be 2¢ a gallon, to them it may be 8¢ or 10¢. Any increase is a problem though, we are just about 4¢ a gallon lower than New York and about 15¢ lower than Pennsylvania, plus we of course have to pay for an employee to be available to pump every gallon we sell. On the bright side, there is talk that NJ would follow most other states and impose some kind of fee on electric vehicles, to ensure these vehicles start to pay their fair share. This is especially important since these vehicles weigh about 30% more than ICE vehicles, contributing more wear and tear to the roads.

Another component of that 2016 tax deal was the lowering of the state's sales tax from 7% to 6.625%. With the State looking for more revenue, this could be where they find it, by increasing the rate back to 7%. That'll make it harder for your customers to afford everything from coffee to repairwork. Oh and remember that increase in tolls on the Parkway and Turnpike that was announced the week before the election, which the Gov. vetoed after hearing an outcry from the legislators on the ballot? Well it came back up this week and was approved again, another 3% increase. And last week, NJ Transit announced plans to increase fees 15%, followed by automatic 3% increases every year thereafter. Between gas taxes, tolls, and transit costs, it's going to be more expensive for your employees to get to the jobsite every day. 

Rack Averages

DateRack AvgAvg w TaxesLow Rack
DateAvg RetailAvg MarginDiesel Rack Avg

*The average rack price has increased about 20¢ a gallon since Jan. 8th*

News Worth Knowing:

Member Benefit Partner (MBP) Spotlight: Prime Lube

Located in Carteret, Prime Lube offers the lubricant and antifreeze brands you know and trust, including products from Chevron, Shell (Shell, Pennzoil and Quaker State), Castrol, Petro Canada and their own API-certified Prime Plus product line, for a wide range of automotive and heavy-duty lubricants. They make it a priority to ensure that all of our products meet the highest quality and integrity standards so that their customers can be certain they will work the right way every time. Additionally, Prime Lube manufactures and packages Blue Sky DEF at their facility in Rahway, NJ.

Prime Lube is about more than just great products. Their extensive resources allow them to offer timely, dependable and reliable service to meet almost any customer need. At the same time, as a family-owned and operated company, they understand the importance of having that personal touch. That’s why they also provide top-notch customer service and industry-leading expertise with a host of product, market and engineering specialists on staff to assist their customers throughout the process and answer any questions they may have in order to give them peace of mind.

Contact: Rick Ciociola, 732-347-2013 RCiociola@primelubeinc.com 

Available Real Estate

Station for Sale

Thriving High Profit Gas/Service Station close to Major Highway in Prime Location. 

This Exclusive Gas Station is the Sole Provider in the entire town, achieving a remarkable fuel profit of up to and sometimes over 1$ a gallon. Consistently selling 45,000 gallons monthly. Most fuel customers come from Highway so fuel prices do not have to be competitive. 

Also included with the Property is a Reputable High End Auto Repair Facility. Repair shop has all required Specialty and Diagnostic Tools for servicing mostly High End Vehicles. Advertising is no longer used do to an enormous Demand and large Customer Base. Repair Business has has potential for increased profitability and expansion, the business is open to experienced buyers for a possible partnership or profit sharing arrangement. Location is 1 out of 100. Fuel sales make 20-40K a month and repairs can do the same with the right operator. 

This one of a kind opportunity can include seller financing for those with High-Level Automotive or Gas Station Experience.

Contact Greg

Cape Harbor Shell

795 Route 109

Unit B

Lower Township, NJ, 08204

CLICK HERE to view the listing

Our Road Warrior newsletter is brought to you by the following Member Benefit Partners:

New Jersey Gasoline-Convenience-Automotive Association
615 Hope Road, Bldg. 2, 1st Floor
Eatontown, NJ 07724


Phone: 732-256-9646
eMail: info@njgca.org