Fact Check: Costco Digital Gas Pump Screen Did NOT Display 'Blame Joe Biden' Message -- It's An Altered Image

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.

Fact Check: Costco Digital Gas Pump Screen Did NOT Display 'Blame Joe Biden' Message -- It's An Altered Image Edited Photo

Did a digital display screen at a Costco Wholesale gas pump display a message that said, "Don't blame us. Blame Joe Biden"? No, that's not true: This image has been edited.

The digitally altered image began appearing on Facebook on about May 27, 2022. One example was published with a caption:

Forget Stickers. Costco just went digital.

The text of the display screens in the photo reads:

This Sale

Costco Wholesale
Don't blame us.
Blame Joe Biden
< Yes
< Yes

This is how the post appeared at the time of writing:
(Image source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue May 31 15:31:14 2022 UTC)

There are two small details that show this photo was digitally retouched.

Directly above the lower display screen, on the black frame, the word "Yes" is visible. This artifact was left behind accidentally by a person who was editing the word "Yes." who failed to notice one of the working layers was still visible when the retouched image was flattened to finish and save it as a new image.

The errant "Yes" isn't only out of place, it is out of place in the exact center of the image (below left). In some digital editing programs, when an element is copied and pasted, the program will automatically drop the element in the center of the workspace. Lead Stories experimented with the word "No" (below right) in the Gimp image editor and the copied word "No" was dropped in the same centered position over the word "Yes." The Adobe Photoshop program produces the same results: If an area of the image is selected and copied, the first time it is pasted it is dropped directly over the selection; but if it is pasted a second time, it is dropped in the center of the image.


(Image source: Lead Stories comparison image made on Tue May 31 16:05:19 2022 UTC)

Adobe Photoshop has a tool that makes it easy to demonstrate a minor misalignment of the digitally added message. The perspective crop tool "crops an image to correct distortions caused by perspective." Each corner of a distorted rectangular area can be carefully selected from the image (below left) and Photoshop will then make a new image (below right). Lead Stories added a transparent red stripe to show the line where the text should be if it was aligned properly in the digital readout. The bottom edge of the "Blame Joe Biden" text is not formatted to the same perspective as the actual screen display.


(Image source: Lead Stories comparison image made on Tue May 31 16:05:19 2022 UTC)

Lead Stories reached out to Costco for comment on the claim, and the company responded by email on May 31, 2022, saying: "The Costco gas station post/image you are referring to is not affiliated with or approved by Costco."


  • 2022-06-01T00:06:08Z 2022-06-01T00:06:08Z
    Updated with response from Costco.

  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


Read more about or contact Sarah Thompson

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