Scratching the surface

I know I often write about Scott and Phoebe Preston’s various sagas on Shetland that’s because they’re always interesting and possibly because, rather than in spite of, Tagon Stores being so remote. And possibly because Scott keeps me informed of events (hint, hint, if you ever want a story written up, let me know).

This latest concerned Camelot and I was a bit involved in it in my go-between fashion.

Some time ago, post Christmas, I was discussing a dodgy fags offer Scott had received, and along the way he mentioned that just about the only thing missing at the store was the National Lottery.

"Even Scratchcards would be awesome," he said. "I’d even dress up in a onesie to promote it!"

As I never tire of telling people, I have absolutely no clout with Camelot. But, because I knew that Camelot likes positives and they don’t come much more positive than Scott, I emailed his story to my contact at Camelot.

A month later he was notified that his outlet would be ’perfect’ for Scratchcards; it was confirmed on March 18 when he was given his retailer number.

Problem was though, it still hadn’t been installed some six months later. He chased head office a few times but was told he was a special case because of his location. I got in touch with Camelot again pointing out that summer is when Shetland really thrives, what with the oil workers and tourists, so we thought Camelot was missing a trick.

My contact had a word with her colleagues and came back to say it was going in the following week beginning August 4.

She added: "As you say, we do have to make special arrangements for Mr Preston’s store and other stores in that area because of their remote location. We are doing all of the installations in that region at the same time, to ensure we’re being as cost-efficient as possible."

Scott subsequently told me: "Yes all happened as they suggested it would the only downside is the technology isn’t working now so we have an empty unit taking up space while the engineers come out to fix it which of course will be whenever they can get ferries booked (joys of Island life!)."

He was hoping to be online sometime within a week or two and sure enough the following week it was up and running.

By mid-August he emailed: "We sold 15 cards yesterday (between 4.30 when the training was completed and 7pm) and we’ve sold around the same this morning, all good news here in Shetland. Here’s to many more Scratchcards being sold!"

He was so chuffed that he sent me a photo of the terminal. (To be honest, it looks just like all the other Scratchcard terminals.)I think they’re just scratching the surface so far.

No fuel equals no profit

If you’re a trader in the West Country you’ll know that the other, better, word for August is tourists. All those lovely grockles. The moneyed ones. All needing regular refuelling for both themselves and their vehicles.

So it was extremely bad news when Valero Energy contacted more than 30 service stations across Devon and Cornwall on an early August weekend to tell operators not to sell unleaded petrol because it appeared to be ’off spec’ (as reported on our website August 13) and somehow contaminated. This, of course, would have affected shop sales as well.

Just as I was about to write this column I was contacted by Laurence Haring re the above.

Laurence, from business advice firm Point 3 Consultancy (and who has also run forecourts), emailed the following: "I have only just seen (as have had feet up in the sun) the article in FT about the off-spec unleaded fuel that affected many sites in the South West."

Here’s his tip. "I assume most retailers would know, but if any don’t, they should check their insurance policy in respect of their ’loss of profits’ clauses.

"More importantly, normally the clause would be for 12 months after the incident but also some insurance policies have ’loss of attraction’ clauses." Even more interestingly, he adds: "For a consumer, you would think, in instances like this, there may be some loss of trust in the fuel they put in their vehicles so it isn’t just the weekend of lost sales that retailers should look at but the more expansive picture."

So, not just the lucrative touristy business but the ongoing locals as well. Look to your policies.

Ghastly gas igniting gives us the vapours

I’ve just watched the most horrendous clip on Facebook, sent to me by forecourt worker Hasmukhlal Sodha, illustrating why mobile phone use is banned in petrol stations. It was clearly filmed in North America, probably caught on security cameras.

The text explained what happened when a gas station worker got on top of the tanker delivering gas at night. The guy climbed on to its roof and, as it was dark on the dome, he used his cell phone to shine a light.

The vapourising gas ignited and the tanker exploded. (It is always the fumes that explode, not the petrol but I probably don’t have to tell you that.)

Dear god you could clearly see the worker by now a ball of fire rolling around on the ground.

I shouldn’t think he lived to tell the tale.