Pinning down fraud

It might be happy Christmas any minute but this is an early Valentine for you. If you are not Chip and PIN compliant by next February 14 you will have to carry the can for any fraudulent use of credit/debit cards. I know, it’s not the most loving of messages but it’s for your own good.

This warning was prompted by a call from Adrian Bowen who runs Penrhyn Beach Service Station near Llandudno, a business that he describes as “small and serving mainly elderly customers”. He has a perfectly adequate swipe machine and was ticked off that he would have to move from owning a machine outright to having to rent one for £80 a month or invest another £1,000 to buy a replacement to become compliant. He wanted to know if there were cheaper alternatives.

Indeed there are. Adrian is a fully paid-up member of Garage Watch but hadn’t thought to contact the group. I spoke to Mark Bradshaw, founder and chief executive of Garage Watch, who said he would get in touch with Adrian to get him up to speed with what is on offer. Mark admits to a certain amount (actually a large amount) of frustration that many retailers don’t even seem to have got the message yet that they will have to upgrade.

“A lot of them haven’t got off their backsides yet,” says Mark, “We’ve spent two years getting a solution together but there has been a very slow response even though we’ve sent it out in our newsletter. We’ve negotiated very good rates, a monthly scheme charge of £16.67, no set-up fee, no worries about maintenance and transaction charges of 1.5p per billed card and 1.19% on bank credit cards. And the machine (Htec Gemini) will do all the fuel cards. Retailers switching to this scheme will probably find that they are on a better rate than they are at present.”

If you want to take advantage of this scheme ring Garage Watch on 01952 463 273.

Whose side are they on?

A couple of weeks ago I pitched up at Sainsbury’s to do my usual plod round the shop only to find the experience enlivened by alarm bells and security staff sprinting up the aisles after a bloke, who had clearly seen better times, trying to dodge and weave his way out. He, and his whisky bottle (or more correctly, Sainsbury’s whisky bottle), got caught and quite soon after that the long arm of the law arrived and swept him into a police van while two other officers stood near their police car alongside.

Well, it’s what you’d expect when the customer makes off with high-priced goods, like whisky, or petrol, without paying. You wish eh?

Compare that with Roy Devlia’s recent experience. His ‘customer’ walked blatantly into Roy’s forecourt store at Wordsley near Stourbridge in the West Midlands to say that he couldn’t pay for the £18-worth of petrol he had just put in his car.

Roy doesn’t take cheques but asked the ‘customer’ for a cheque book and/or card that he could hang onto until the guy returned with payment. He complied with a cheque book full of blank stubs and an Electron card. A short while later he returned but only to threaten Roy with the police. In the end Roy called the police himself only to be informed that a) they weren’t interested and b) he had no right to retain the ‘customer’s’ cheque book and card.

Eighteen quid’s worth of petrol is about the same price as a decent bottle of whisky isn’t it?

Wine, women and song

The new licensing regime came into play just before December giving the authorities the heebie-jeebies – as they clearly believe that the yobs will go into binge-mode for the duration of the festivities and thereafter. Christmas, in this country at least, is often associated with merriment. Tis the season to be jolly.

And for those who got their Grandfather rights bang to rights I’m sure this will be the case in terms of seasonal sales. My condolences to those of you who ran afoul of the new licensing officer before you even got started by not filling in the forms correctly. That takes care of the ‘wine’ (and even the whine) element in my sub-heading. As to ‘song’ – did you know there were new rules? As most of you will be aware, if you play the radio or a TV or run ads in your store, you need to pay the Performing Rights Society (PRS) to do so (starting at £64 a year). This compensates performers, song-writers and composers.

But, since 2003, Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) has had the right to collect copyright money on behalf of recording companies as well. You probably haven’t noticed this because the PPL only started to enforce this last month. They are currently mailing retailers to tell them that another £50 (at least) needs to be forked out each year.

But, I hear you ask, what about the women? Well, it just goes with that headline. On the other hand, who makes Christmas go round? But on that note I wish you all, irrespective of gender, the very best of the season: goodwill, good sales and good cheer.