Forecourt Trader - 30 years at the heart of the fuel retailing community

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

You pay for a service, you expect to get that service. Nailesh Gokani from Empire Garage, North London, has been experiencing great holes in the Post Office's money collection service.

In the second week in July he wrote them an email saying: "Once again we are having constant problems with the contracted service. This week our collections have not been made on Tuesday, Thursday and again today Friday. Our contract is for collections on five days of the week."

He rang the London East depot and spoke to someone who said that there was no possibility of a collection that day and also advised him that there was a very slim chance of the collection being done on Monday.

He added: "So your company is basically carrying out the collections from small independent sites only when they deem it suitable but continually takes the direct debits monthly without fail.

"I requested that a collection be done tomorrow (Saturday) but was informed that this again is not possible.

"I don't know if you realise that by failing to carry out this service your company is putting the lives of innocent people at risk of serious injury or worse but I don't suppose that bothers anyone as long as the monthly direct debit doesn't fail."

He had good reason to suggest that lives may be at risk. A few years ago he was literally robbed on the bank's doorstep. That's why he now pays for a collection service.

Back to the present, Nailesh later made arrangements to close the garage for 10 minutes and four staff members went to bank two days' takings.

The Post Office did apologise and copied me in, so here it is in part: "As I said in my previous email earlier this afternoon, I am sorry that you are experiencing service issues again. Firstly I would like to update you on the position. We are waiting for major change to take place within the London Depot that services your site.

"This change is significant and changes not only the routing schedules but also the working practices of our depots. These changes have been implemented at all depots now with the exception of three, of which one is London.

"It is hoped that London will go live by the end of the month but at the moment this is not guaranteed. Until the changes are implemented we will continue to have service issues and you may not receive your full scheduled services every week. The situation this week has been exacerbated by the London Underground strike which has caused additional traffic and some issues with staff getting into work, but these issues should be restricted to this week alone."

But this isn't the first time this has happened to the business.

Last year, before closing for several months for a big refurb, Nailesh contacted me with the same problem.

He says he can't prove it to the Post Office because he asked to remain anonymous at the time. But I can prove it; I took notes and the story appeared in the April 2014 edition. He needs to seek compensation.

The pension pot plot

If you have one member of staff who is 22 years of age or over, and earning £10,000 or more, you will have to put a pension scheme in place.

When you have to start (known as the 'staging' date) depends on how many employees you have. But start you must, eventually, or the Pensions Regulator will get you.

According to Londis retailer Steve Vaughan, Handbridge Services, Chester, it is the bane of retailers' lives. He had just come from a retailer meeting and said everyone was moaning about it.

So he wants to hand on a tip. "A lot of people are making truckloads of money out of this," he says, but he has found a firm that will set you up a system for just a few quid per person per month.

The company is called AEclipse and it too is based in Chester, but works nationally.

I spoke to Pete Avery who said he recently had a client who had been quoted £7,000 for setting up a scheme for a dozen staff.

"We can do that for £48 a month. That's £3 per employee per month plus VAT."

The company's minimum fee is £40 per month plus VAT.

Pete has given me two direct lines that you can reach him and a colleague on: 01244 691993 and 01244 691992.

And if you mention the reference code AE1, they will know that you have come via Forecourt Trader magazine.

Did you know?

I was contacted by a retailer who would like to know how many people realise that the new Allstar One card is actually dual branded as a Keyfuels card, and customers have the option of using it for a debit/credit card Allstar chip and pin transaction or as a discount diesel Keyfuels card.

He says: "Allstar charge around two per cent in fees so it's meagre pickings. If it goes through as bunkering that is 0.7ppl commission. It's bloody annoying as there's no money in it. They are trying to take away poor margins and pay us even less."

He would like to know what some of the bigger boys from the Top 50 Indies think about this.

He further reckons if a couple of them got together and refused the terms, they might just get changed.

Any feedback on this would be appreciated by both him and me.

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Weekly Fuel Prices 24 July 2017
RegionDieselLPGSuper ULUL
East116.0159.90124.64114.98
East Midlands115.3357.90125.01114.79
London115.8656.90126.28115.17
North East114.6459.90124.42114.29
North West115.4951.90125.52114.98
Northern Ireland114.44121.70113.75
Scotland115.1371.90123.35114.30
South East116.3148.90125.76115.34
South West115.8161.90123.70115.00
Wales115.06122.25114.40
West Midlands115.5562.90126.47115.00
Yorkshire & Humber115.27127.08114.68

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