UPDATE: Tuesday, April 24: 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.”
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 Woburn Police Department 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.
Have you had similar problems in Malden? Think King's Petroleum is great? Let us know in the comments.