It’s a little-known group of very important people in Franklin County tasked with the job of making sure you get what you pay for.
It's called the Franklin County Auditor's Office Department of Weights and Measures.
Agatha Shields, supervises the operation. Her job is to make sure every device used to decide what you pay for something is accurate. She uses very precise tools to measure accuracy of devices like the gasoline pumps you use to fill your vehicle gas tank. The goal is to make sure that if you buy five gallons of gasoline, that's what you get. The measurement has to be within six tablespoons of five gallons.
Roughly a third of the 3,300 gas pumps the county checks every year need some sort of tweak. To ensure the pump's meters aren't tampered with after calibration, Shields puts a lead seal on the gauge.
Franklin County Auditor Clarence Mingo says once a device is flagged, it cannot be used until it’s fixed. “We give them a 14-day window to make sure that device is what it should be,” he explains.
Laundromat timers also get inspected. Those coin operated timers are supposed to buy 18 minutes of drying time for 75 cents. To perform the test, Shields does what any customer would do: put in three quarters and push start. She uses a stopwatch to mark 18 minutes.
The laundromat passed the test, and most inspections turn out that way.
Of the 564 commercial timing devices inspected last year, 17 failed. Of 1520 scales tested, 118 failed. Of 7419 liquid measuring devices inspected, 452 failed.
Shields advises customers to ask a manager first if they have an issue with a machine. “Always let them try to fix it,” she says.
If you don't get satisfaction from a store manager, call the number on the Auditor's sticker. Shields says the county will send someone out within 24 to 48 hours to investigate.
For the Department of Weights & Measures, there's no device too big or too small to test.
The Mark Gray's scrap yard uses a massive in-ground scale to measure loads of scrap. A technician rolls a special buggy onto the scale. The driver gets off the buggy so his body weight won't affect the measurement.
With 15 tons of weight on the scale, it has to be within 20 pounds of perfect. In this case, it was off by only a pound.
Scrapyard owner Mark Gray says it’s the right thing to do to have his scale inspected and certified every year.
The tests are usually scheduled, but inspectors can also show up unannounced. The businesses they visit are obligated to give them full access to all measuring devices, whenever they show up.