It’s Catch 22

This was a tricky one. Ismail Bhattay, rang from his Uplands site in Birmingham to say that he had had no gas for nearly three weeks and his supply agreement with Flogas prevented him from obtaining supplies elsewhere.

He said he understood that rural areas had to be prioritised during the recent snowfalls but he was not notified of any delay and only found out when he ran out whereas head office knew via the telemetry system which transmits readings automatically. By the time he realised it he had only 700 litres left.

I wrote to Flogas and suggested that it sounded like they were in breach of contract. After three weeks Ismail would have difficulty winning back customers and every day without supplies would make this more difficult.

This was their response: "While Flogas Britain Ltd cannot comment on individual cases, the team has been speaking to Ismail Bhattay directly and continues to do so."

Ismail labelled this "typical" of Flogas and said the only correspondence had been one voicemail and one phone call from the sales rep. He said he had tried to find gas but they were loath to supply because of his arrangement with Flogas, which I think sounds a bit clubby.

Finally, Ismail got an email from the company admitting that it was still suffering shortages and couldn’t guarantee deliveries to its Autogas customers.

It concluded: "As such I am extending permissions for you to take LPG from an alternative supplier until such time that I can guarantee assured supply. Apologies for the inconvenience."

Ismail wrote back saying: "This is a complete joke. I want compensation. You have failed to honour your contract; after three weeks you managed to send me an email late on Friday allowing me to purchase gas from an alternative supplier."

Still not going with the Flow

Just over a year ago I reported on the problems that Huw Griffiths was having at his Bridgend site with his back-office system Flow Background2. Involving as it did at the time, three separate companies (BG2, Tokheim and present owner Dover Corporation), it was quite a muddle to sort it out but they did manage eventually to get him up and running again.

Now Huw says: "Last November all support for Flow was withdrawn and the refund I received for the period up to my contract end came from Tokheim UK. I suffered the same problem in the first few days of January. But, as I was anticipating this problem, I switched to IT Retail back office on the 17th January."

He says it was difficult finding a suitable replacement as he required a Sage Accounts link. IT Retail promised him a Sage link which they wrote for him. But it has not lived up to his expectations... yet.

Looking after staff

I got sent the following: "Forecourt crime is on the increase; weekly attacks on staff, very often working in the forecourt shop on their own, are on the increase. Products such as alcohol and cigarettes along with cash have become easy pickings at what has now become a 24-hour operation for the majority of the larger retailers."

It came from John Prew who is national accounts manager for Link Integrated Security Solutions. He was prompted by a piece I had written about drive-offs. He adds: "We have been installing a product Staff Guard for several years now in the retail sector. We have three of the units on trial at MRH Forecourts.

"The system is basically a communications device that when a button is pressed our central station operators can listen in to what is going on. We can also connect the shop’s CCTV cameras so the operators can actually see and record the scenes that are taking place. By opening a speech channel the operators can advise that the police or emergency services are being contacted on a speaker within the shop. Most of the time the attacker/assailant runs off and a serious crime is prevented."

He says local police authorities like the system because it confirms a real crime in progress to which they must respond in the same way as a 999 call.

The cost is around £400 net installed, but the cost would decrease depending on numbers. The client does have a return on investment however, as the unit can also monitor CCTV, intruder alarms and fire detection through to central control, which saves the client on average £150 per year.