Home-made recipes could go wrong

Flaming June already although as this is being written I’m still ankle-deep in drought. Splish sploshing around in the darling muds of May.

Still, two Bank Holidays in June should brighten things up and no doubt you have smartened up your barbecue offering already or at least stocked up on charcoal.

Ajay Patel asks by email whether he should take up an offer to sell sandwiches that a local woman will make in her own home.

He trades, he says, near the coast in Welsh Wales and he was considering at least a trial during the summer months.

She has even offered to do an ’Olympic’ club sandwich. A winning arrangement involving three slices of bread with cheese, ham, pickle and salad.

Good idea, and I hate to be a killjoy, but this raises quite a few issues. Pre-packed sandwiches need full labelling including name, ingredients, additives and percentage indications of certain ingredients, known as QUID (Quantitative Ingredient Declaration), date mark, storage conditions, name and address of the manufacturer and country of origin. There is also a list of 12 specific allergens that must be listed if their presence is not clear in the ingredients list. It’s a pity but it’s not for enthusiastic amateurs.

Nine months and waiting

Asif Kassam, who runs KP Hill Service Station in Manchester, got in touch back in April over a problem he was having with Cardsave. He wrote: "I have been with Cardsave for over 10 years and they process all our credit/debit and fuel cards. But in September 2011 I noticed all the fuel cards had the same authorisation codes so I enquired about it with Cardsave and was told that there was an error on their side that should be rectified soon.

"I asked Cardsave what if I’m given a stolen card or a hot listed card. Would the terminal recognise it? And the answer was ’Yes, don’t worry, it’s all safe’."

So Asif kept on trading as normal but a month later he received a letter from PHH fuel cards asking for copies of some transactions. He duly made copies and posted them. A couple of weeks later PHH wrote back saying that some 30-40 fuel transactions worth around £2,000 were fraudulent and the money would be deducted from his account. Within seven days they did just that. He continued: "I contacted Cardsave about this and was told ’We are still sorting things out, please bear with us’. It’s April 2012 now and I still haven’t got my money back nor have the authorisation codes been updated."

I had further discussions with Asif and it sounded like the authorisation code (012345) had been set on some sort of default. He speculated that the £2,000 that had been rejected by PHH might have been because the accounts were on stop (possibly all down to some local companies who hadn’t paid their bills to PHH). He was very worried that others might be rejected too but felt he couldn’t afford to stop taking fuel cards.

I got in touch with Cardsave which, following a short screw up over his account number, responded quite quickly saying that the head of operations would look into it.

When I spoke to Asif shortly afterwards a courier had arrived with a new machine although he took it away again because he couldn’t wait the time that it would take for Asif to poll the day’s transactions on the old machine.

A week or so later he did get a new machine but that default code is still there.

Another update from the company indicated that it was currently awaiting a report on the fuel card authorisation routing on a specific fuel card brand on Asif’s account. "The issue appears to have been identified here rather than a local number of accounts on stop," said the spokesman.

By mid May, Cardsave had taken copies of transactions and Asif waited for the verdict he is still waiting as this column is being filed. Cardsave just keeps telling me that it has "further updated" Asif.

After nine months he is overdue a delivery. And I think I can safely say that two grand means more to him than it would to Cardsave.

Happy birthday to us!

By the time you get to this page you will have noticed that it’s Forecourt Trader’s 25th anniversary.

A quarter of a century isn’t bad going in the publishing world (I’ve been around long enough to know). I started as a columnist for FT in 1995 with a business tips page which morphed into Service Centre with its attached helpline.

Callers have ranged from those with horrendous problems to those with handy tips. From those with outraged opinions to be aired, to those with minor irritations (like Mohammad Nabi from Mayland Garage in Essex in our last issue who waited a whole year for his free Stella stock to arrive part of a deal from a refrigeration company). I’m happy to report that one email from me resulted in prompt delivery!

Overall it’s been an interesting ride so far. I could draw comparisons between forecourt operators and convenience store owners because I also write a helpline-based column for FT’s sister paper Convenience Store. On the whole I would say that forecourt traders are a tougher breed. I don’t know whether you have to be that way to take on a forecourt business or whether you become that way because, because but long may you not only survive but thrive.