Maybe one day fuel will have a built-in ‘activation’ capsule in it, or somesuch, that will only be switched on when the customer actually pays for the stuff. If I knew how to do it I would patent it.

Meanwhile many of you are stuck with drive-offs and dud cheques/cards (especially if your chip and pin machine isn’t on-stream yet). My latest communication on the subject comes from Peter Ballard whose station in Shaftesbury, Dorset, has been, like everyone’s, a target for both.

He writes via email: “Last year I put a dummy CCTV camera on top of the canopy over our entrance and immediately drive-offs reduced by 60%.”

I am pleased to hear this, although other forecourt operators have told me that cameras sometimes only get a cheery wave from the thief.

Peter’s email was mainly prompted by the fact that a local lad had just passed five dud cheques. Three of the cheques were taken as ‘no means of payment’ following refusal of the lad’s Solo card. The other two he snuck past a new cashier at a busy time. He did make a fatal error though. Following the Solo card refusal he told the cashier that there would be money in his account by the end of the week.

“As he had confirmed that he had issued a cheque knowing that he had no funds, our very good local police were happy to follow this up and sort him out,” writes Peter.

He then poses a question: if a customer refuses to leave his car, with unpaid fuel in it, at the site until he returns with an acceptable means of payment, and drives off instead, has he broken the law?

Yup. He has stolen the fuel, unless of course you get an IOU.

Time for a reminder about the Thumbs Up Security kit which is a very good form of IOU. This £3.60 kit will take around 1,000 impressions. The theory goes that, when a customer has ‘forgotten’ his cheque book/card and promises to return, you merely tell them that it is company policy to take a thumb print.

Thumbs Up managing director Margaret Reid has impressive statistics as to its effectiveness and has sold thousands of them.

If you want one, ring 01383 727302.

And if you want some bigger kit, RS Sales and Distribution does an enhanced version that also includes signs, stickers, posters and drive-off report pad for around £22. Ring 01580 893100.