Chill out and save money

It’s been a strip-to-the-waist summer for much of the UK this year which will have put a severe strain on the chillers. Following my piece in the July issue on Jonathan James’ advice to put the doors back on them following astonishing savings, Mike Stayte of John Stayte Services, Gloucestershire, wrote to say: "I have an alternative for drinks chillers. Put them on timers to go off one hour before closing and come on one hour before opening! While this is of no use to food chillers, it can cut the drinks chiller power use by a third in most small filling stations."

Mike adds that he runs three filling stations and has found that open chillers are expensive to run and lose cold rapidly if there is a power cut. "We use doors for both drinks and food chillers. The use of cheap timers (£5 or so) can be extended to Pot Noodle and coffee machines."

These tips are invaluable. Keep ’em coming. I would include the advice that, if you can’t afford to put doors on right now, blinds or chiller strips will conserve energy overnight. Another point to remember is that you might make extra sales over the supers because your drinks are all nice and coldy-woldy, but, if it costs you dearly in electricitythen it’s back to the drawing board. Earlier this year the wholesale price of electricity rose by 30% in just 10 weeks. You’ll see these price rises later, or if you are on a fixed tariff, at the end of your contract with your supplier.

I often recommend to people who ring the helpline that they consult (part of for savings. The company acts as a broker and won’t charge you for its services. It shops around, gets you the best deal and best of all, reminds you when the contract is up and due for renewal or switch. If you don’t challenge the energy company at renewal time, rest assured that your charges will go up.

Ready, steady, aim, fire!

Of course you don’t want to fire anyone but sometimes you have to. El Davies emailed from Cardiff with a sorry tale about a part-timer not-quite-caught on camera but suspected of helping himself rather a lot from the gantry. The CCTV has since been rearranged and covert cameras installed as well. The guy was fired for gross misconduct and didn’t argue. But sometimes they do. The statistics are pretty gripping. Apparently roughly one in 10 retail employees has committed a crime against their employer in the past 12 months, according to research from a specialist security company, GFS. The most common crime was consuming produce (out of 224,000 people, 160,000 secretly stole food). Next favourite was taking goods without paying (56,000) while others stole goods in transit (28,000) between the storage room and the shop. An awful lot of others (84,000) took supposedly damaged goods. Since these figures add up to more than the total, one must assume that some workers fell into more than one category.

There are two golden rules here. When you hire, make it explicit in the particulars of employment what the instant dismissal criteria are. And if things go wrong, consult Acas. It’s government appointed but impartial and it will give you very good advice. Furthermore, should the tribunal loom, Acas will be the one to adjudicate.

The number to ring is: 08457 474747

Pigs might fly, so might cars

Cars can’t usually fly outside of James Bond-and-the-like films. But now I read that the Terrafugia Transition has been cleared for take-off. The £132,000 flying car is designed to soar above traffic jams.

Glyn Reece, who runs Penny’s in Chester, sent me an email with all the details. The vehicle, given the go-ahead by US aviation authorities, complies with car safety standards including airbags, energy-absorbing crumple zones and a safety cage. Its makers say it is the first to have wings that fold up automatically at the push of a button.

The vehicle had previously passed test flights and has now gone into commercial production and there are already 70 customers lined up who have paid a £6,500 deposit for the vehicle, which costs about the same as a Bentley or Ferrari supercar.

The thing does require 1,700ft of uncluttered road for take-off.

Its inventors at Terrafugia, who include former Nasa engineers, say the vehicle is easy to keep and run because it uses normal unleaded fuel, can be re-fuelled at petrol stations, and will fit into a normal domestic garage (the US idea of normal size would of course be ’super double deluxe’ in UK terms).

The 19ft long car can reach 65mph on the road and get up to 115mph in the air where it has a range of up to 500 miles. It is powered by a 100hp four-stroke engine (about the same as Ford Fiesta) and it can switch from being a two-seater road car to a plane at the touch of a button in under 30 seconds.

In car mode it has a steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedals, but no gearstick.

As a plane, it is controlled with a joystick near the steering wheel.

If you are a rich forecourt operator, it might be handy for nipping from site to site but bear in mind you’ll need a pilot’s licence as well as a driver’s one.

And the good news? The Transition still needs a weekly wash.