Going that extra mile for deliveries

A lot of garages got left in the lurch following the collapse of Palmer & Harvey last year. Nisa picked up quite a few of the pieces, but not all. Carol Smith’s small store at Bridge Garage in Shrewton, Salisbury, has been left stranded supplies-wise since November. Not that she hasn’t tried very hard to source deliveries. She started out with Booker’s Eastleigh branch because she knew that they delivered to Larkhill Camp, which has a Premier shop and which is only four miles from her.

But, believe it or not, the distribution manager told her that it would depend on whether the driver was prepared to go that extra distance. Although Eastleigh is her closest branch, they recommended she try Swindon, but no one got back to her. Then she tried Batleys at Swindon which also wasn’t interested in her business.

When she rang me, Carol had resorted to going to the cash and carry and had more or less given up on the delivered front.

I got in touch with Booker head office and told them that she used to spend around £2,000 a week with P&H and would be happy to just get a fortnightly delivery. And I also asked since when do the drivers call the shots?

I didn’t get an answer to that. In fact I got what I recognise as Booker’s stock response from a spokesperson: "We are sorry to hear of Ms Smith’s concerns and although we do not discuss individual customers, we will happily pick up with her directly."

So I thought that might work. I spoke to Carol again and asked her if she would like to hear from head office and she said: "Yes please." I relayed that to Booker along with her phone number and, as this is being written, there has been contact with more promised. Hopefully there will be a good follow up story.

Just in case though, can anyone make other recommendations? This small store doesn’t do ’regular’ groceries, but does sandwiches, snacks, sugar, tea, coffee, milk, biscuits, eggs, loo rolls and medicines. It also has a hot dog machine and coffee to go. She spends around £1,500 on the general goods and a similar amount on tobacco every 10 days.

It would be nice for her to have a choice.

Pricey cardboard

Chris Toole asked: "How does Camelot justify charging £50 for what is basically a pack of cardboard?"

He was referring to the charge for not returning expired scatchcards. Chris has two sites and the newer one, in Carlisle, is mainly run by staff and he isn’t that hands on. Last autumn he was charged £450 for non-returned, non-activated scratchcards. He says if there was an email reminder he didn’t see it. When he called me he had been charged another £150 for three more packs.

He doesn’t deny overlooking sending them back but he wanted me to ask Camelot how they can justify this charge for cards he can’t sell and that they can’t sell?

"And why does Camelot need expired cards back?" Which brought him to his fifty quid for a bit of cardboard point.

So I put this to Camelot and a spokesman replied: "I’ve asked our Provisioning Team to have a look into this and they’ve said that they have now spoken to Mr Toole directly to explain the process. As you know, retailers are charged for the non-return of any scratchcard packs which haven’t yet been activated as per our Retailer Agreement. We charge this fee to ensure that retailers always return stock so that it can be destroyed in a safe and responsible way, in order to protect players. For example, say that old scratchcards which had expired (and not been destroyed properly by the retailer) were then found, and sold on any ’winning’ players, of course, wouldn’t be able to claim a prize."

They said this is not a new policy and that their scratchcards returns process has always worked this way.

I sent the response to Chris and he replied: "I did indeed get a visit from the local Camelot rep, although he did not provide me with any contractual details of the non-return charges.

"The game closure reports are indeed well displayed and we do get notifications on this, but as for the non-refundable charge, that is a little harder to find."

And he adds: "I have asked for copies of emails or mail shots regarding this, or even a copy of my Retailer Agreement, along with any training ’sign off’ reports to show we had been properly informed." He wasn’t sure how it would pan out but he’s going to keep me posted.