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Service centre: Jac Roper on business rates rage and a lottery turn off

At this rate... there'll be no profit left

Business rates, as a topic, is all the rage (and there's plenty to rage about) at the moment.

Service Centre - Jac Roper on seeking compensation after no power for nine days plus more NWF woes

Literally absolutely powerless

Can you imagine having your petrol station and adjacent MOT business and car wash being without power for nine days? Nine hours is crippling enough.

Service Centre: Jac Roper on a solution to an epos problem and reporting non-compliance

When things aren't going with the Flow:What a labyrinth it can be when companies hive bits off here and there so that your supplier/service support becomes owned by another company. They will usually all claim business as usual but for those on the receiving end when it goes wrong it can be anything but.

Service Centre: Jac Roper with a tip on reducing your water bill plus some happy endings

Going with the flow:Here's a happy new year tip from my regular tipster Steve Vaughan, Handbridge Services, Chester. He knows first hand that forecourt operators are more than happy to make any and all savings possible. And lately he's been looking at wait for it water. Sounds straightforward, simple, but it isn't.

Service Centre: Jac Roper talks about the auto-enrolment pension trap plus the worst service ever

Auto-enrolment nothing to do with cars:Anyone who knows Londis retailer Steve Vaughan (Handbridge Services, Chester) knows that he likes to pass on useful tips. In 2015 he recommended AEclipse, a company that will set up a pension scheme for you without ripping you off. (And as we all know, any new scheme involving money and red tape, automatically attracts rip-off merchants). His latest tip is on the same subject. (And I do know that 'pensions' is a very boring, easily-ignored subject although, funnily enough, the older you get, the more interesting it gets).

Service Centre: Jac Roper on treating staff correctly and a fuel agreement that went sour

You need to treat your best asset in a very civil manner

Service Centre: Jac Roper on an epos integration problem sorted plus a costly banking issue

A question of integration and co-operation:This one was a really very different case for me involving as it does, some fast-moving technology and two big organisations. Imran Khan runs St Giles Filling Station with a Costcutter convenience store in Durham.

Service Centre: Jac Roper on forecourts boycotting The Sun and how to build a business

Total eclipse of The S*n:That's not my headline it belongs to Liverpool. There is currently one helluva campaign going in the Speke area in Liverpool to boycott The Sun newspaper. If you want to see some colourful comments have a look at the public Facebook group called Total eclipse of the S*n which has gained some 13,000 members in just a few weeks including 10 major petrol stations in the area.

Service Centre: Jac Roper writes about an unwanted switch of power plus PayPoint delivers good news about

An unexpected and unwanted power struggle

Service Centre: Jac Roper on an insurance policy issue plus a 6,000 theft from within

Make sure you cover your back:When Jagdish Radia rang me from Leaway Service Station in Birmingham, in late April, he had been without insurance cover for over a month: a shock-horror story if ever I'd heard one.

Service Centre: Jac Roper on more energy bill problems plus a supplier who would not supply

Energy firms that are not fitting the bill:In the last issue I marvelled at Extra Energy's inability to bill Huw Griffiths for his electricity supply for 10 months.Huw had been putting the money aside in a big tin as he reckoned the bill was around 20K.

Service Centre: Jac Roper talks about a service issue; having to chase for a bill; and unwanted stock

Where was the customer service when it was needed?When you pay 3,000 a year for a service contract you rather expect a bit of prompt attention when things go wrong.In mid-February, I got a call from Khalid Mohammad who runs Shelfield Service Station in Walsall in the West Midlands.

Service Centre: Jac Roper looks at dealing with debt collectors; a fuel pricing puzzle; and a makeover

Chasing after the money:I expect some of you have been chased by debt collectors. Not pleasant is it? Even if you do owe the money. But when you don't owe it, it's a very bitter experience.

Service Centre: Jac Roper talks about a run-in with the council and an ATM that's well out of order

How do you deal with such a petty bureaucrat?Gill Marsh Forecourts cannot be the only company to have had a run-in with the local council following bogus complaints about noisy remote refrigeration.

Service Centre: Jac Roper talks about a Sage saga; the pros and cons of an ATM; and edible insects

Not a very good start:Sharon Collins, from Saffrons Garage in Bodenham, Hereford, is kicking herself for signing up for a Point Four epos system. She did so because she believed that it could handle a link into Sage and fuel card bunkering, whereas her old system could not.

Service Centre: Jac Roper on two money stories - one with no cash and the other no collections

A cash point with no cash is no joke.You offer extra services, on top of your normal marketing mix, in order to draw in the punters and to make a bit (never very much) on the side. All very well when it's glitch-free, but a pain when it isn't.

Service Centre: Jac Roper talks about a canopy problem sorted; a possible 'insurable peril'; and cash is in

Booker's been in the news a lot lately and it's all been good. But for one retailer there had been a lot of frustration although nothing to do with Booker's offering, which he is quite happy with. Around six months ago a new Booker delivery man managed to back onto Jagesh Radia's forecourt (Leaway Service Station in Birmingham) and damaged the top of the canopy. "He didn't know the height of his vehicle," says Jagesh, "and it is now hanging loose and dangerous."

Service Centre: Jac Roper talks about a cycling update, more Allstar One trouble and a big con trick

In my last column I reported on the huge upheaval that Kumar Selvakumar's Black Horse Service Station in east London's Walthamstow had undergone due to roadworks. These were not just any old roadworks.

Service Centre:Jac Roper looks at charges for cash deposits; the legality of staff; and allergy labelling

Service Centre: Jac Roper looks at Post Office collection chaos plus new pension rules that will affect you

Service Centre: Jac Roper looks at pricing problems; a system glitch; and more on fuel cards

What a difference a day makes

Service Centre: Jac Roper asks if a price fix is on the cards? And problems with filling the ATM

Is this price fixing?

If you give everything away you'll get plenty of footfall... but no profit, says Paul Ghuman who runs Pentagon Service Station in Derby.

Service Centre: Jac Roper writes about a terrifying fuel card story and a solution to Suresh's lid problem

Really, really bad news

This is a totally anonymous story, although the two protagonists will recognise themselves. A reader approached Forecourt Trader with a very real problem. The other party will know who they are because of the details to follow. I am simply not naming anyone in the hope that this dire situation may be agreeably resolved.

Service Centre: Jac Roper looks at licensing applications and an update on that pesky freezer problem

The rocky road to booze

I expect most of you are licensed or want to be. Even now though it isn't a straightforward process for forecourts. Here is a bit of a master class for you.

Service Centre: Jac Roper looks at how debit and credit charges are going down, but there's a big 'but'

Large sums

If I am notorious for anything it's for not being good at sums: hence my word-mongering career.

Service Centre: Jac Roper on a million pound knock-down rebuild plus the fall in fuel prices

Knock-down prices:Nothing like a makeover to start the year. And if you want your place to look like a million dollars or should I say pounds, then you might have to spend that much.

Service Centre: Jac Roper on the latest scams; problem customers; and new technology

You're not paranoid they ARE out to get you

Happy New Year and all that. I wish you a bright, shiny start. But some things never change. This very minute someone will be trying to scam somebody in the forecourt world. The one doing the rounds just before Christmas was fake 5 vouchers 'redeemable' against JTI tobacco brands Benson & Hedges, Silk Cut, Old Holborn, Hamlet and so forth.

Service Centre: Jac Roper on Christmas opening; the rise of own brand; and analysing your sales

Deck the Halls with Boston Charlie...

It was always my favourite, fractured yuletide 'carol'. I thought originally that it referred to some mafia 'event' involving an unfortunate Boston-based bloke called Charlie, and his fate was to be plastered around the walls. But that turned out to be wrong as it's just a nonsense rhyme that relates to the American satirical cartoon Pogo. And the actual first line goes 'Deck us all with Boston Charlie'. Sounds even messier.

Service Centre: Jac Roper on saving energy, money and rewarding your loyal customers

Save your energy

Costs go up, profits go down. What to do? Look at operating overheads. Regular contact Stephen Vaughan, of Handbridge Services and Londis store in Chester, wants to pass on his experience with energy savings.

Service Centre: Jac Roper on new pumps needed and why the Scots' rurals are better together

There's no help in the pipeline

The devil, as always, is in the detail. Or, in the case of contracts, in the fine print.

Service Centre: Jac Roper on scratchcards in the Shetlands, off-spec fuel and a fiery tale

Scratching the surface

I know I often write about Scott and Phoebe Preston's various sagas on Shetland that's because they're always interesting and possibly because, rather than in spite of, Tagon Stores being so remote. And possibly because Scott keeps me informed of events (hint, hint, if you ever want a story written up, let me know).

Service Centre: Jac Roper on news about sick pay that might make you feel under the weather

They giveth with one hand...

And taketh away with the other. No prizes for guessing my reference is to government and its budgets.

Service Centre: Jac Roper on choosing the right symbol group and more on the Scottish vote

Choices, choices

If you have nine shops and you are in the Top 50 Indies you are already a success by anyone's standards. But it never stops there you are always looking to improve. Intake Developments, an up-and-coming chain of forecourts, all Jet sites, has shops ranging in size from 500-1,850sq ft.

Service Centre: Jac Roper talks to a retailer about the Scottish vote and what it could mean for business

Will it be 'aye' or 'nay'?

A column I wrote a couple of issues back in Forecourt Trader's sister paper Convenience Store on the upcoming referendum prompted an email from forecourt operator Scott Preston.

Service Centre: Jac Roper on protection money; bank advice; and a driverless car

Buried letters will cost you money

Ever heard of PCI DSS? Depressingly I have quite a few times now. You may have seen it buried between some lines you got on a statement from the bank or credit card company. Between the two helplines I run for Forecourt Trader and Convenience Store, I have had quite a few retailers ringing me about this cost of compliance fee on traders who take credit/debit cards.

Service Centre: Jac Roper on a comprehensive look for insurance; and major money trouble

Keeping safe

Khaliq Mian rang from Knowle Garage in Braunton, north Devon, looking for some suggestions on commercial insurance. He uses a local broker but, like most things, the costs have been going up.

Service Centre: Jac Roper looks at a ratings query; a misleading offer; and a weird fetish

When you are only just over the limit

In Scotland businesses qualify for a rates discount if their rateable values (RVs) don't exceed 25,000. This allows businesses with two or more properties with a cumulative RV of under 25,000 to qualify for relief at 25% on individual properties with a RV up to 18,000.

Service Centre: Jac Roper deals with an insurance query, a helping hand and a handy short cut

Is this really such a risky business?

Where do you buy your insurance? Do you switch very often? Does it go up by much when you renew? How about when you make a claim? Have you got a good broker?

Service Centre: Jac Roper starts the New Year with good news as well as lots of wise words

The loan arranger good guys

This column is kicking off the New Year with some good news. It comes via Steve Vaughan, a Londis retailer who runs Handbridge Services in Chester.

Service Centre: Jac Roper writes about a computer catch-up; a worrying scam; and Christmas cheer

Are you up to speed on technology?

I must congratulate Tony Barlow, who runs the Mount Service Station in Shrewsbury, for employing such an observant cashier named Robert Fox. Robert works for Tony during the week and for another business, called Claremont News, on a Sunday. On Tony's urging, Robert sent me an email entitled 'Torex/Micros Iridium vs Supernews anomaly' as both businesses use Torex epos systems.

Service Centre: Jac Roper on The hot topic of hot fuel plus tips on relaying your store on a shoestring

Do you really get what you pay for?

How do you know if the amount of fuel ordered is the amount delivered? How much of a hot topic is the temperature of fuel?

Service Centre: Jac Roper on a duty rebate that doesn't work and a case where common sense prevails

What's the real price of petrol?

The price of petrol is a perennial headline grabber. You would think, by now, enough journalists reporting on the subject would have 'got to the bottom of it'; ie the public would know that the retailers have nowt to do with the price at the pump, even if they do own the ruddy pumps.

Service Centre: Jac Roper on retailers having a run-in with the planning office... and problem staff

Get approval before you improve

Sometimes there is no pleasing the local authorities. Linda Sheppard tells a cautionary tale that anyone who is thinking about making improvements should read.

Service Centre: Jac Roper looks at computer headaches, a welcome refund and advice on staff

You really don't need crashes

After 18 months of firefighting with a system that is meant to help him run his business, Jon Brownsey says he is beyond angry now. He first got in touch with Forecourt Trader last September over ongoing problems at his Fordingbridge Service Station, Hampshire, with his Micros (previously Torex) system. It summed up as crashes, error messages, inability to poll at night or to order grocery supplies from Londis.

Service Centre: Jac Roper highlights problems when a supplier goes bust; and saving money on cards

How you can optimise your losses

Here's a cautionary tale for you. Back in March 2010 James Henderson, managing director of Cohannon Inn Ltd (which includes a filling station in Dungannon, County Tyrone), was approached by Energy Saving Company, an approved agent for Carbon Trust. It offered to supply electricity optimisers paid for via a no-interest loan from Carbon Trust.

Service Centre: Jac Roper delves into employee contracts, extra services and snow

Look after your assets

Here's a clich question for you Mr Forecourt Boss: what's your best asset? I'm sure you have many but full marks if you said 'staff' unless, of course, you spend every working hour right there on the till.

Service Centre: Help and advice from Jac Roper

A pain in the cashflow

Quite an Easter wasn't it? What with a hole in the wall cash machine being blown up into a much larger hole at a petrol station in Weyhill, Hampshire, while Steve Jones was busy getting sued by a policewoman after the poor dear tripped on his Nun's Bridges forecourt kerb in Thetford, Norfolk, while investigating a potential incident. Both made front page news in the nationals.

Service Centre: Jac Roper discusses credit card charges and electric car charging

Do you take plastic? Of course you do

You'd probably have to go as far as Germany to find a forecourt that doesn't accept cards although I haven't been to Germany lately so I don't know if their 'cash only' policies still apply.

Service Centre: Jac Roper sorts your problems, including the rules on splitting up multipacks

Always check out the label

'Freddie' rang up. As you may have already sussed, that's not his real name. He believes that a nearby competitor may be trying to stitch him up but didn't want to ID anyone for obvious reasons.

Service Centre: Jac Roper on the New Year starting with problems with diesel tanks and cash machines

A second quote saves the day

Happy New Year to all. Right, that's enough joy; now back to the problems. Garry Gibson, head of operations at Cooper Bros in Wishaw, Lancashire, certainly had a time of it last year.

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Weekly Fuel Prices 17 April 2017
RegionDieselLPGSuper ULUL
East Midlands119.95131.24118.34
North East119.40130.73117.21
North West120.01128.97118.13
Northern Ireland119.1063.50117.39
South East121.0958.50129.83119.18
South West120.38128.30118.45
West Midlands120.3661.57130.37118.53
Yorkshire & Humber119.72129.97118.08

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With so much talk about plans for 'toxic charges' on the most polluting vehicles, do you think drivers of diesel-engined vehicles are being unfairly demonised?