When One Stop was not the answer

This is a sad story about a garage that is no more. Well, it’s still there, in Wales, waiting to be re-activated, more of which later.

It goes back a year or more to the previous owner, who wishes to remain anonymous. His forecourt and store weren’t doing well (he had contacted me a couple of years earlier with debt collector problems). More recently he had decided to join One Stop, thinking it would rejuvenate the business but the contract stipulated that the site could not sell fuel.

He says: "We had joined One Stop to look to increase shop sales. This did not happen. And in fact One Stop wanted around £100,000 from me to invest in the shop to bring it up to their store standards. We were not made aware of this when we joined One Stop. It was impossible to raise this amount of equity. Hence we then decided to sell the business."

The new tenants decided not to take on the One Stop franchise, opting instead for a Spar fascia.

Mr Anon adds: "It has been a very tough year. Sadly my father passed away a few months ago. And naturally all focus was on that. We had to quickly sell up. One Stop were fully aware if this. And at no time raised any objections. We are living in rented accommodation at the moment. Sadly One Stop think we have ridden off into the sunset with bucket loads of money. Which is not true. We have leased the business and took no premium."

The upshot of all this was that One Stop (ie Tesco money) threatened to bankrupt him.

He says: "If they bankrupt me, then I will be made homeless and may even lose my job. I just do not understand why One Stop are being so unreasonable."

When he mentions One Stop being unreasonable he means that they have not accepted his offer to pay them £50K once the sale to the tenants is completed in December. I have seen a long trail of emails, the latest of which from One Stop’s lawyers Knights Professional Services, says: "The offer is rejected and I am instructed to proceed with the bankruptcy proceedings and to seek a bankruptcy order against you and Mrs xxxxxxx.

"The only basis upon which my client would be prepared to withdraw the petitions would be upon receipt of cleared funds of £50,000 ahead of the hearings, which would be accepted by my client in full and final settlement of the petition debt."

He replied to this saying: "Not sure what your clients think of me and my situation, whereby I can instantly find £50,000."

He was attempting to get an adjournment but Knights pointed out that there had already been one of these and there wouldn’t be another but they did offer to drop the payment to £41,458.71.

Knights did recommend that he sought immediate independent legal advice. I also recommended that he should consult an insolvency practitioner. Turned out he already had but they wanted £10,000 upfront!

Mr Anon concludes: "As to making me bankrupt. They have zero chance of recovering any money from me. There are other debts we also need to cover. Also not sure how I can sell a leased property." (I recommended consulting Citizens Advice on this aspect. He really does need legal advice.)

Very sticky all round. And the new tenants are desperate to sell fuel. They have a contract with Harvest Energy. But there is a small matter of four tanks needing relining and £50K found to get things up to scratch.

It’s not all MFG/MRH success in the forecourt world.

Jagdish gets his canopy money back

Happy to report that Jagdish Radia got his money for that damaged canopy and light I covered in the last issue. The lorry driver had admitted it was his fault and the logistics company which employed him said they would pay up when Jagdish threatened to go to the press. They asked him for a breakdown for the repairs at Leaway Service Station in Birmingham and I thought you might like to see the list.

The site survey charge to assess the damage was £250. The on-site labour came to £600 (for one full crew day); the specialist access plant totted up to another £500.

The LED light unit was a further £425 and the soffit sheeting £725. A total of £2,500 for what looked like just a few crumples I could see on the pictures he forwarded... sort of like the equivalent of a fender bender on a car only a lot higher up. And, of course, scaffolding is never going to be cheap.