Allstars? Nul point more like

A number of Texaco retailers have given ’no stars’ to Allstar fuel cards following its migration of all card and IT systems from its previous owner’s platforms (Arval) to the new platform (Fleetcor) the weekend before the start of the New Year.

The dealers complaining on the Texaco online forum have had issues with reconciling Allstar sales with many having several unpaid transactions per week. It hasn’t helped that they had to ring a premium rate number to complain.

Some of the problems go back to before December and it has been debated online whether the problem is only with Valero sites and whether the cards should be boycotted altogether.

Among the comments were: "When do we say enough is enough?" "Now at the point of seriously putting posters on the forecourt advising customers that we no longer accept Allstar due to their incompetence." There are a lot more like that up there.

The ’good’ news, if it can be labelled such, is that no, it isn’t just Texaco retailers (it’s just that you Texaco guys chat a bit more among yourselves, so a high five for your support system!). So Allstar must assuredly be working to operate on this shot in its foot.

Ruth Kent, communications manager at Valero, told us: "The problem retailers are experiencing with Allstar is a nationwide issue and it is not limited to Texaco service stations. Allstar has migrated all their cards to a new platform and while on the whole this has been successful, some issues have surfaced that are having an impact on retailers.

"We have informed our retailers of this issue and will continue to keep them informed of developments via Texaco Station. We continue to communicate with Allstar to push for a resolution of this problem and have been assured by them that they are working hard to resolve it. Retailers should contact Allstar’s Network Team if they feel there has been any financial impact, and their claim will be looked at on an individual basis."

Strangest request

Every forecourt owner will have employed staff (well, except for that weird one-man band half way up a mountain in Wyoming I reported on a couple of years ago he’s since sold up, by the way). And with staff come, erm, challenges.

When I emailed Brian Madderson at RMIP with ’the strangest request I have ever had’ as my subject line, he replied that he thought I was about to ask him about make-up!

Actually I was about to ask how a retailer could prove to his fuel supplier that his site was wide enough to accommodate the biggest tanker size therefore getting him the best deal; although the supplier was refuting the access size. Brian said he had just had his own strangest request of the week an employer wanted to know what to do about a young male employee who had suddenly started to wear what was very obviously female make-up.

Female staff were unhappy with this and customers were ’quizzical’. The staff handbook didn’t cover this eventuality.

I have to say that my week perked up at Brian’s email although if you were said employer you would probably not have been enjoying it much.

Brian put another group member onto this case, who had previously had a male employee who wanted to grow his hair to the same length as the women working for the company. He was dismissed and took the company to a tribunal.

Upshot: the company won on the grounds that they had the right to project a conventional image and that the employee’s request fell outside what the employer deemed to be conventional.

I have a son, 29 going on 19 (bear with me) and he is a visual artist. Got a 2:1 degree in fine art, as a matter of fact. He has had a variety of jobs and some of his employers have struggled with his tattooes, piercings, chains, spiky coloured hair and so on.

I asked him what was the weirdest take on staff dress he had seen as an employee and he remembered a guy working at the local cinema who, having been on the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, had decided to wear long white robes and sandals to work, putting his black and blue short-sleeved cinema shirt over the robes.

The cinema ’wore’ it because it would probably have been too hard to fight. As my son Josh says: "Wait till an ethnic minority does it. Then it’s okay." He gets no stick any more about his strange body art (except from me) but I would point all of you to the very important contract of employment, where these things can be spelled out.

A helping hand

The previous story illustrates how useful your associations can be. I was speaking recently to Mark Wilson, group operations director at Fraser Group, who reckons that the membership fees for joining RMIP and the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) are well worth it. He says: "ACS is very good on legislation and RMIP is very good on employment issues."

The Fraser Group, which has 280 employees, at first used an outside firm to advise on employment, legislative and health and safety issues, and found it was good at laying out the basics but then found it cumbersome to work with if anything went wrong. Now the group keeps itself updated through membership of both associations which clearly are going to understand the petrol/convenience world better than any outside company and are going to be cheaper too.