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Customers report problems with Costco gas

With gas prices at an all-time high, the last thing anyone wants to worry about is whether the gas they purchase will screw-up their vehicle.

That’s exactly what happened to Michelle Delgado, however, who purchased gas from the Merced Costco on Friday.

Delgado said she filled up her GMC Yukon at the Merced Costco around 7:45 a.m. — but didn’t have to drive too far after she realized there was a problem. “When I started heading home, there was this terrible ‘pinging’ noise,” Delgado said. “Now I am on my way to go get a rental car.”

She isn’t the only one who had problems with the suspect gas from Costco on Friday. The Sun-Star received several phone called from people with similar stories on Friday. “The farther I drove the louder (the noise) got,” Delgado said.

Officials at Costco’s corporate office in Issaquah, Wash. acknowledged the problems with the gas from the Merced Costco. Jeff Cole, Costco’s vice president of gasoline, said the problem is due to the fact that diesel fuel was accidentally placed in the store's fueling tank for regular gas, which Cole said was an “inadvertent error at the loading rack.”

As a result, customers who thought they were getting regular fuel ended up pumping diesel fuel into their cars. Cole said the error occurred at 6 a.m. and the problem was recognized around 9 a.m.

The pumps in question were turned off after the problem was brought to Costco’s attention, Cole said. More a handful people thus far have contacted Costco about the problems caused by the bum gas, Cole said. He said as many as 140 people may have used the suspect pumps Friday morning.

Costco is currently contacting customers who may have been affected, Cole said. “Obviously we’re very sorry this happened,” Cole said.

In the meantime, Cole said affected customers can bring receipts for any auto repairs that needs to be done to their car as a result of the mistake — and they will be immediately reimbursed. Customers who needed rental cars as a result of the error will also be reimbursed. “We’re trying to make this as painless as possible,” Cole said.

Cole said anyone who has problems paying for the repairs can call the Costo warehouse directly at (209) 725-5020.

Steve Makinson, an auto mechanic at Precision Brakes in Merced, spent Friday repairing one car that was affected by the gasoline snafu. Makinson said flushing out the car’s fuel system solves the problem — but can run about $200. “It’s not a real bad problem once you know what’s going on,” Makinson said.

Delgado said she was inconvenienced by the episode and has taken her car to an auto mechanic. She said she will forgive Costco as will remain a loyal customer — as long as she gets her money back.

“Hopefully they will stick to their word and take responsibility for today’s mishap,” she said.

Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsun-star.com.

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