CashZone’s one-sided contract
As many of you are finding to your cost, CashZone has been switching indies from free-to-use ATMs to fee-paying ones. Joe Brough rang from Offerton Green Service Station near Stockport to, as he put it, "vent his spleen re CashZone’s behaviour towards its customers".
The name may sound familiar. Joe’s business, Manor Retail Group, sold nine of its sites to MFG back in 2017 and now he just runs a solo forecourt.
He got the usual letter from CashZone explaining that Link’s interchange fee cuts for cash machine operators meant that it would be introducing a withdrawal surcharge of 95p and that the fee paid to him would be 10p. All spelled out in the contract.
What also irked him was that the two nearest outlets in competition with him, a Co-op and an MFG, have both retained their free-to-use ATMs. Joe says: "Historically CashZone paid a £520 operating fee per month. Then it went down to £260."
When he rang to complain about their latest move, they offered him a free-to-use deal for £300 a month and no commission (this was later dropped to £150).
His site is being refurbished at the moment so the ATM is not in use; therefore Joe has also had time to take a closer look at his contract. He subsequently sent me some notes "regarding CashZone’s shocking treatment of its smaller customers".
He writes: "Having gone through my contract in detail it does indeed state that CashZone can alter the withdrawal fee and fees payable to the retailer. However, an important clause states the following: ’The merchant and CashZone shall in good faith acting reasonably and in the best commercial interests of both parties renegotiate the fees payable to the merchant’.
"This to me sounds very much like we need to sit down together and discuss a viable option going forward. If they will not, the matter will be going to my solicitors." He concludes: "I await a response from CashZone to my offer but suggest all those with a CashZone ATM check their contracts carefully."
Meanwhile, Joe has been getting creative with ways to combat the negative impact that a 95p charge may have on customers. "We could put up a sign to say spend a fiver with us and get your 95p back." (A bit like a local Sainsbury car park I know. It works quite well.)
And a PS here. I asked Joe what his contract said about offering cashback from the till. It’s not allowed.
Where have all the flowers gone?
It was recently announced that, after nearly a year on from Co-op’s takeover of Nisa, retailers are seeing the benefits.
This hasn’t stopped some pretty sharp criticism though. An anonymous operator, whose forecourt also has a Nisa store, sent me some comments from the Nisa partners online forum.
One said: "We have been shorted eight cases of Mother’s Day flowers which is over half of what we ordered. Why are we being asked to do a pre-sell months in advance for this to happen without any notification?
Another one said: "Just called in a Co-op store and all the flowers that Nisa retailers have had shorted are piled high in there."
Mr Anon pointed out that Nisa partners have been shorted in the main by over 50% of their pre-sell order. "Not the first time this has happened since the Co-op took over Nisa, with Christmas shortages being the same as this. What is annoying to Nisa partners is the fact that their local competition which, in the majority are Co-op owned company stores, always have a piled-high flower display at these key trading periods."
I sent all the above to the Co-op which forwarded it to Nisa. The response came from Nisa: "There was an isolated supplier delivery delay on a few Mother’s Day flower lines that affected both Co-op and Nisa stores.
"While the situation was disappointing, despite the failed delivery from the supplier, Nisa service levels on flowers for the week came in at 93%."
I sent this response on to Mr Anon and he said: "The answer Nisa gave on the flower deliveries for Mother’s Day being 93% is a complete fabrication. Both my stores received only 50% of the flowers ordered on the Nisa/Co-op pre-sell and I am one of the larger buying Nisa partners. The posts on the Nisa partners forum would suggests this was the same for all partners."