Donna Cook, owner of the Sonoco gas station in Grandview, earned one loyal customer in an unusual way when she inadvertently sold him a half tank of gas mixed with water.
But Mark Guenin of Pagosa Springs said Cook’s rapid efforts to reimburse him and others who purchased some of the tainted gas deserve praise.
“There was no hassle, no haggling. It couldn’t have been handled more smoothly. She covered my expenses not even knowing if her insurance would cover it,” Guenin said.
Guenin had taken his 2017 Jeep Wrangler to Morehart Murphy Auto Center in Durango for servicing on Jan. 16 and was en route to pick up his brother at Durango-La Plata County Airport when he stopped at the Sonoco, 28870 U.S. Highway 160, to top off his tank.
Earlier that day, the station had received a tanker load of gas that is suspected to have delivered gas mixed with water.
The Jeep, he said, made it 5 miles – to the top of the hill before the turn off to the airport – when it died.
By the time he returned to the station to report the problem, Guenin said two other drivers had already been reimbursed by Cook, and plastic bags were over the pump nozzles and gas sales had ceased.
Cook reimbursed him the $400 he was out for the bad gas, and for the cost of having to have his fuel tank and fuel lines flushed and new fuel filters installed.
“I felt bad for her,” Guenin said. “It was clearly not her fault, and when I went back, she was clearly flustered.”
Cook 71, said she had a truck come in at 4 a.m. the next day to pump everything out of her tanks, and she has purged her lines and put in new filters. Since the incident, she has checked her tank constantly because she was worried she had an underground water leak. But the tests have come back clean ever since she purged her tank.
“I went all over town writing checks,” Cook said of her efforts to reimburse 10 people who purchased the bad gas.
She issued 10 checks to customers ranging from $400 to $900 for their bad gas and car repairs.
“It was the only right thing to do,” Cook said. “It wasn’t my fault, but it came from my gas, and they’re my customers and they’re special.”
Cook said she has talked to an insurance agent about filing a claim to cover her expenses, but she is not sure she will do that even if her insurance agrees to cover her costs.
“If you file an insurance claim, it comes back to bite you,” she said. “Your risk factor goes up, your premium goes up. I don’t know if they’ll take care of it or if I want them to – better to bite the bullet now rather than later.”