Chasing after the money: I expect some of you have been chased by debt collectors. Not pleasant is it? Even if you do owe the money. But when you don’t owe it, it’s a very bitter experience.
In mid December I was contacted by Diyan Patel, who runs Gilwern Garage & Post Office in south Wales. He had received a debt recovery notice from Shire Recoveries demanding £2,073, which it claimed was owed to his one-time Landmark wholesaler AF Blakemore.
It is true that Diyan owed Blakemore money for previous supplies to his Lifestyle store, but this only amounted to £1,084.
He had been paying this off and he had been disputing the new, inflated bill for quite some time.
He sent me proof (that he had also sent to Blakemore).
It was around 10 pages long and included sales invoices with the wrong account numbers and some of them even referring to deliveries to completely different businesses.
Diyan says that he had offered to pay £1,084 as a full and final amount many times but it was never accepted and he was now getting calls from debt collectors every hour, which was obviously very stressful.
I shuddered when I heard this because I had had a long saga with various debt collectors after my handbag, and identity, had been stolen some 15 years ago.
My so-called debts had been run up by thieves, but it took me 12 years to get the debt collectors off my back because they kept selling the debt on when they didn’t succeed in getting anywhere with me. Each successive debt collector got tougher. In the end a sympathetic trading standards officer went round to the last one and hauled them off... but the trauma remains and so does the thick file I have on the subject.
Back to Diyan. I knew he would be unable to talk any sense to a debt collector.
His only hope was to get Blakemore to take them off the case. I contacted Landmark Cash and Carry group’s head office to see if it could intervene in the dispute between its member AF Blakemore and Diyan. And hurrah, it came to pass after, no doubt, discreet conversations.
By mid January he got a letter from Shire Recoveries accepting the original amount as full and final settlement. I know I played only a small part in this. Diyan did all the donkey work and he would also say that thanks is due to the head of credit control at Blakemore for her role in getting it sorted.
Transparent fuel pricing? Never!
That was the heading to an email I received six weeks ago from someone who keeps in touch fairly regularly but I’m going to keep him anonymous because the last time he blew the whistle on a company which had overcharged him by £10K, they withdrew his credit facilities almost overnight leaving him, he says, "between a rock and a hard place".
He posed the following question: how come two fuel companies, claiming to use the same pricing mechanism, can charge such varying prices?
He sent me the following example: "Company one prices at weekly averaged Platts lagged plus 1.86ppl add on. Company two prices at weekly average Platts lagged plus 3.68ppl add on. If you are still with me on this, company two should therefore always be 1.82ppl more expensive than company one if same rules apply."
I got his point and, although I didn’t really understand all his terminology, I’m sure you will.
Then he adds: "Company one prices this week unleaded 84.15, diesel 81.04. Company two prices this week unleaded 84.42, diesel 80.84. Go figure!"
Yes, even a sums-dunce like me can see that the differences are, erm, quite different.
He says that he is now liaising with the campaigning group FairFuelUK in respect of this.
And he concludes: "I do feel all the industry is in this together. Something needs to be done."
He would welcome others’ views on this. So would I.
Not a wild goose chase after all
Once upon a time, it is rumoured, a chap from London went up to Dursley in Gloucestershire with a view to buying a property. Didn’t fancy it and therefore called it a ’wild goose’ chase. This thriving business, now trading as Wild Goose Garage, didn’t put John Stayte Services off though as it is now part of its chain of four enterprises. The name intrigued Forecourt Trader’s Shop Doctor, who reviewed the site following its win as ’Best Pace Forecourt’ in the 2014 SuperStation Awards.
Shop Doc was impressed by the range in such a small space and competitive fuel prices, but overall, the site only scored half the max: two-and-a-half stars out of five.
I could say the company took it to heart, but actually a refurb was on the cards anyway and now it has happened. Mike Stayte rang me up to report that following a revamp to the tune of £50,000, they would like a re-marking of their paper.
They don’t know who Shop Doc is... neither do I. I am freelance so not based at head office. I’m sure Shop Doc is also freelance, roaming around and not based at HQ either. No matter. I read his page and I expect he reads this column, so hey, Doc, put it on your schedule: next time you are up that way, train your sights on that Wild Goose site.