There’s no help in the pipeline

The devil, as always, is in the detail. Or, in the case of contracts, in the fine print.

A frustrated Khaliq Mian got in touch a couple of months ago wondering if I could send him a list of pump suppliers because of the trouble he was having with his existing one.

He trades as Knowle Garage and Londis store, in the tiny village of Knowle near Braunton on the road between Ilfracombe and Barnstaple in North Devon.

He has just three pumps (two unleaded, one diesel) with two nozzles each and one of the nozzles on the diesel pump had been acting up. "Both the lines are coming from the same tank but there is some sort of junction there so one is slow and the other is okay," he says.

He turned to his supplier because he has a maintenance contract and they sent an engineer who found sludge. They also sent a specialist who said there was nothing wrong with the fuel.

"My agreement includes maintenance of the pumps but after a few call outs the engineers said they only cover so many of these. No one had told me that. They should have specified how many calls." That bill was £400.

He got in another independent engineer and in the end it cost him £2,500 to sort it out plus the pump was closed for 10 days. He decided to try his insurance company but they managed to not pay up, not even for loss of business. The insurance covers damage of the pumps above ground but not underground in the fuel line.

This will probably sound like chicken feed to those of you with several sites or with individual big forecourts. Khaliq does around 900,000 litres per annum.

He says the tourist trade has been ’average’ this year and he can’t really afford this.

He is also wondering whether he should switch suppliers since he feels his current one has let him down. So, if there are any suppliers out there interested

Scottish rural forecourts are better together

Forecourt Trader’s website and its LinkedIn forum carried a story the day before the Scottish referendum vote saying that there would be no rural fuel rebate extension before 2015. Reporter John Wood posted that it is in the hands of the EU, whose wheels turn slowly so 2015 might be a tad on the optimistic side. Plus all 28 EU member states have to agree.

As John pointed out, the current rural fuel scheme is thus far restricted to the Inner and Outer Hebrides the Northern Isles, the Islands of the Clyde and the Isles of Scilly, offering retailers a rebate of 5ppl relief on sales of unleaded and diesel.

The list of those still hoping for relief, if the EU approves, comprises 17 areas. Four of these are in England. The rest 13 areas are in Scotland.

It’s a small point among many, but it’s a good job that Scotland has stayed in the union. I wouldn’t have fancied the chances of those 13 areas getting the nod from the EU on their own.

And I’m pretty sure that, among Scottish forecourt operators, the nays would have outweighed the ayes in the vote. Logistics are quite important in the forecourt world and a yes vote would have brought unwanted and costly complications.

What price loyalty?

The other day my son was making me a cup of tea in itself a notable event. "This petrol station cup okay?" he asked.

I was amazed that he even remembered its origins as he was quite young when I acquired it, along with the rest of the set, via my local petrol station’s loyalty scheme. They have lasted far longer than one would imagine from what I assumed at the time to be fairly cheap crockery.

I’ve also got half a dozen soup bowls with handles and recipes on them from the same forecourt. Must be at least 15 years old.

Now it’s all about reward points promotions from supermarkets. Tesco Clubcard points can be exchanged for MOTs with Halfords and Morrisons offers its Morrisons Miles Card (10 miles for every litre, which after 5,000 miles adds up to a fiver to spend in the store).

Of course, Sainsbury’s Nectar has a tie-in with BP and motorists can pick up Tesco Clubcard points at Esso stations.

But, if you are a true indie, you are on your own. I know a few retailers who offer a free coffee for a spend over a certain amount. Got any good schemes?

It looks like the future way to promote is liable to be digital, like that smartphone-based coupon app that can be used in any retail outlet that has PayPoint. PayPoint reckons around 145,000 people use it and it is free to retailers.

The national wage bill is going up again

You probably don’t need reminding that the National Minimum Wage goes up again as of October 1.

For under 18s it will be £3.79; for 18-20 year olds it will be £5.13 and for the over 21s it will be £6.50.

And, I am assuming that, even if you pay over the odds already, staff will expect an annual increase to maintain that edge.

Hopefully your turnover/profit will have gone up enough to cover it. Don’t all shout at once now!