It was a bad split up

Just before Easter I got a call from Akbar Aras who runs Top Stop Services in Cannock, Staffordshire. He was about to come out of his contract with Jet but, with just four days to go he received a call from the Phillips 66 credit office telling him that he needed to pay £43k upfront for his delivery due on March 31 and that he had only two hours to arrange this.

To put it mildly, he was quite taken aback, especially as they had a guarantee from the bank for £110k. He had to do an awful lot of running around to comply.

When he called again, just after Easter, it was to say that Jet owed him £66, the difference between what he ordered and what was delivered. And that he had received an email telling him when they were going to take the money! He rang them up to say he’d already scrabbled about and paid them upfront.

"She said it happened because the system is automated. So their system didn’t know that I’d left the group." Akbar also pointed out that, in 12 years with them, he had never missed a payment.

He subsequently did get the £66 back but, at that point, not the £25 in bank charges.

I asked Phillips 66 for a response and I did get quite a full one part of which is below.

A spokeswoman said: "Jet takes all complaints very seriously and we are extremely sorry to hear that Akbar feels let down by the service he received surrounding his final delivery payments. Our UK retail sales manager, Graham Clout, has spoken directly to Akbar to apologise on behalf of Jet around what was a failing in our credit process for sites leaving the Jet network.

"Our standard process is that when a Jet dealer leaves the network, our credit team monitors their fuel deliveries and in the days leading up to the end of the contract, they then work with the dealer to move from a direct debit payment model to a prepayment process for any final deliveries. The aim of the process is to ensure there is no reduction in service right up to the minute that that site formally leaves the network, and no outstanding payment issues on either side to be resolved afterwards.

"In this particular case, our systems let Akbar down. Due to an internal communication error the fact that Akbar’s site was leaving the network was not captured in the normal manner by our credit systems.

"This led to confusion around cancellation of direct debit payments and then our systems requiring a prepayment of his final delivery. This was communicated to Akbar at very short notice leaving him little time to arrange the fuel payment with his bank before the beginning of the Bank Holiday weekend.

"In light of this, Jet would like to once again apologise for all the inconvenience caused and the poor service that Akbar received. Jet will, of course, refund all the bank charges that he accrued.

"We are also reviewing our payment and customer communications process to see where improvements can be made."

The old switcheroo

Suddenly an email from ’Gassing Around’ as he styles himself. Hadn’t heard from him for ages. He specialises in unanswerable questions. Probably just as well he’s anonymous because I expect I would have to keep him that way anyway given the subject which is poor service from the symbol sector. I would need a name to get a proper response.

He partially blames me for his plight because the last time he contacted me he wanted to know what group, if any, he should join.

I expect I said I couldn’t comment because what suits one operator might get up another one’s nose. No one size fits all.

Fine, he joined one anyway. It’s not working out. And it’s not, he says, because he is hard to please.

Poor availability really gets his goat. Or, as he put it, "wouldn’t surprise me if they sent me tinned goat instead of baked beans". Apparently they pick weird substitutions when they’re out of stock of the items actually ordered. He isn’t a fan of the "so called promotional prices" either nor the rep’s "pushing me to up my spend".

He said he might switch, did I wish to recommend this time?

Nope. But I do recommend that he takes a look at his contract before making any move. Lately I’ve had retailers complaining that one group seems to be chucking out the smaller outlets because they see better opportunities just down the road in bigger stores and other groups imposing big fines on those who try to quit early. So steady on GA. No rash moves.