RICHMOND, R.I. — Anthony Goes is a name posted throughout South County and his job is to make sure businesses “measure up” to their responsibilities to customers.
“I’ll go into some place, I’ll hand them my credit card. They’ll say, ‘I know that name.’ I play dumb and then they’ll say, ‘You’re the gas guy,’” said Goes, a state authorized inspector for gas pumps and much more.
Stickers with his capitalized name, ANTHONY GOES, Registered Agent, are displayed on gas pumps, scales in grocery stores, delicatessens and markets as well as in large fish processing plants, laundromats, junkyards and scrap metal businesses.
His checks also include transfer stations that have per-pound fees for refuse, home clean-up materials and anything else based on weight. In addition, his inspections cover compassion centers dispensing medical marijuana, natural gas delivery companies and many other businesses that charge for measuring something sold to the public.
“Few people know what I really do or that the state checks up on these things,” he said.
Goes is consumers’ first line of defense. Called a state sealer for weights and measures, he makes sure that customers are not getting “gypped.” He certifies with an official state seal, which is a sticker boldly displaying his name, that machines are working correctly or he takes out of service those failing inspection until they are fixed.
So how does this man of measures actually do his job? A tag-along with him last week to Richmond’s Stilson Road Stop & Shop’s inside scales and gas pumps outside, gave a glimpse.
The door to his silver Toyota truck swung open. Goes, a man of medium height, stepped down on the pavement. His attire is distinctive. This day he wore his fluorescent yellow hoodie for outside work so he is seen easily. The next it might be a neat navy blue shirt for inside jobs. Both are embossed with the state seal showing he’s the official guy.
Goes yanked a black box to his side from the back of the truck. Walking into the store, he headed to the customer service desk and asked for the manager by name.
“She’s not here,” came a reply from a clerk. “She’s at another store, but let me get you someone else.” Another manger arrived shortly. Goes chit-chats a bit, just a like a good politician, before getting down to business.
Each visit begins friendly with a business and he hopes it stays that way despite what he finds. He has represented the state for nearly 30 years and knows that a good working relationship can make these probing inspections go smoothly. Looking to his right, he heads to the first checkout register. Many others are lined up in parallel.
“So, how are all the registers, Lisa?” he says to Lisa Birback, the employee escorting him.
“No problems that I know of, but I guess you’ll find out,” she said, watching him open his black case with many varying bright silver weights in different sizes that are neatly and snugly protected in gray foam padding. He takes out several that total 40 pounds.
“Let’s see how it measures up,” Goes said, looking at the scale’s digital read out. It shows through his test that the scale is working correctly. He affixes a sticker to it and moves to the next. He inspects each one-by-one to ensure they weigh items correctly to determine accurate prices for tomatoes, green peppers, apples and any other items customers buy that need weighing.
“Hey, how are you doing today,” he said, moving into the deli area and giving his usual friendly greeting to that staff. After a moment in which he checked a scale’s operation, he says to those around him, “Just great here. It’s working fine.”
And that’s how it goes for Goes, who finds in most businesses digital scales generally work well. Some can be thrown off when items are piled too often on one side, he said, and he orders those fixed when that happens.
He and his son, also named Anthony, work side-by-side. They move through this store in a choreographed fashion that comes from performing the routine over and over. They know where every scale — whether visible to customers or not — is located.
“He’s been going with me since he’s been 14. He knows how this works. We’re a team and that’s how we get the job done,” Goes said, looking over to his son standing nearby. The younger Goes carries a clipboard with official Rhode Island state forms on it. He jotted the date, manufacturer, model, serial number, capacity, any remarks for each scale, and whether it passed inspection.
The two annually go to hundreds of locations from Central Falls to Westerly in the 26 towns he covers for the state. A copy of the report is sent to the state and Goes keeps another to review before the next year’s review of operations.
Being a people’s advocate and helping others is in his blood. That’s because being a sealer is also a family business and one that depends on having a good reputation, a piece of advice given by his father, Manuel Goes Jr., a sealer for Central Falls for many years, he explained.
Like his father, 70-year-old Anthony, known as Tony, became as a city sealer for Central Falls and then in 1992 was hired as a certified state sealer. The younger Goes, who is 39, said he plans to assume his father’s duties soon.
In addition, the elder Goes is a former councilman in Central Falls. Throughout Stop & Shop he talks to staff like he’s running for office, the gift of gab. Yet, his eyes and mind focus tightly on each task at hand. His plain-speaking and blunt style hints of a New England upbringing with his accent adding Rhode Island flavor from growing up in the Ocean State.
He suddenly interrupts the telling about his family history in the business. “We’re done here. All is okay. No problems. Outside to the pumps now,” he said, pushing the door open in a behind-the-scenes meat preparation area in Stop & Shop.
At the pumps outside, those getting fuel can see his sticker in plain sight near the price and gallon gauges. A few car owners, asked about the sticker while getting gas and staring at the climbing cost, replied, “I’ve seen this before. Just who is this guy Anthony Goes?”
“One guy actually wanted my autograph,” Goes said about his name recognition. “He thought it was a fictitious name and I said, no, I’m real,” he recalled, noting that he’s also heard people say, “I know this guy. His stickers are everywhere!”
But not all gas station owners like having state stickers — or him — around their pumps. When needed, he can be Rhode Island’s own tough-guy version of James Cagney, the honest Weights and Measures inspector fighting corruption in the 1936 movie “Great Guy.”
“I had a fellow who took off all the stickers I put on because he claimed they didn’t look good on his new pumps. He gave me a hard time about putting them back on,” Goes recalled.
“I told him, they go where the customer can see them and I decide where they go,” he said, using the firm tone given when businesses resist complying with the law. If they don’t, they’ll be shut down, he said, adding that it then becomes an enforcement matter.
But on this day last week, the mood was friendly at Stop & Shop’s pumps. He pulled up his truck and took out orange cones to put around the master fill-up port for tankers delivering gas. He opens the heavy metal lids because all the gas he pumps out to measure must be poured back into the tank when he’s done.
Attached to the cones he puts a cone extender — a large pole that blocks off cars from weaving between the cones.
“We put up cones and cone extenders around pumps because you can’t believe the number of people who swoop into these lanes to get gas, don’t see us and we’re almost hit,” said Goes.
He removes from the truck two large silver cans with gauges on the front. They cost about $700 to $800 each. Every two years they are re-certified for measuring precisely what goes in them.
He puts one near the pump. He fills the can. He checks the can’s gauge to ensure it matches the output reading on the pump. He and his son repeat this with every grade of gasoline offered. They look for shortages to the consumer.
“I am more interested in the minuses, - 2, -3, -4. The more minuses there are, the more people are not getting what they are paying for,” he said. This day he found none at Stop & Shop.
He pointed out that the digital pumps at roadside gas stations are accurate nearly every time in his tests. However, boat marina pumps that still use old-style spin dials to register gallons and price can be prone to inaccurate measurements, he said, with his son adding that marina owners are quick to fix them then when inspections show a problem.
Whether at gas pumps, stores or anywhere providing services for measured goods, Goes’ public sticker is his brand name for reliability.
It’s also important for the state to have these stickers where goods are measured, said Joseph Degnan, assistant director for the Workforce Regulation and Safety Division at the R.I. Department of Labor and Training.
“Stickers are prominently displayed on the gas pumps so that consumers know the pumps are inspected annually and that the state is taking every measure to ensure the public is getting what they pay for,” Degnan said.
Goes is one of eight registered independent agents representing the state for these checks on weight and measuring devices. Sealers working for the state are independent contractors whose fees are set by state law. They also submit to state authorities for review various inspection reports on their work.
For Goes, that amounts to a lot of reporting. In an average day, he and his son will do about 60 scales of all kinds. In addition, they will measure readings daily on about 90 gas pumps. Yet, the father-son team enjoy the work and helping consumers with their eyes for accuracy.
“I like this work with him,” said the younger Goes, pointing to his father. “I like meeting people in this business and seeing what other people don’t normally see when you go into a place,” he said.