This sales drive took a wrong turn

Happy New Year and I thought it would be nice to start 2020 with a couple of feel-good stories which although didn’t start happily ended in a satisfactory way.

Mohammed Nabi contacted the helpline to say that he took part in the Philip Morris (PM) Drive Programme last year and in the spring got an email with vouchers worth £780.

But, as he told me several months later, a promised cheque never arrived, none of his contacts at the company could help and the dates to activate the vouchers had passed.

PM at first responded by saying: "We have since had confirmation from the voucher vendor that the retailer was emailed a voucher on 13/05/2019 however they did not activate their voucher by the expiry date 16/08/2019.

"Since the retailer failed to activate their voucher, funds have been lost."

Since this response didn’t look good I suggested to Mohammed and PM that all I could offer was some unfavourable publicity.

Their response also got Mohammed somewhat worked up. "Why wouldn’t I activate vouchers of that amount?

"They sent me two codes. One was wrong because I rang them and they said we have sent you the wrong codes, we will send you the right code which they did and I activated the code there and then. Everything I filled in was well before the date."

I appealed again to the company and although it took a while for them to unravel what really went wrong through the third party they use to run the voucher scheme, they got there in the end. I was actually surprised to see the lengths Philip Morris went to in the end to put a wrong right. Not all companies are like this.

Just one of those admin errors

I got the following from Tom Dant, managing director of Gill Marsh Forecourts. "We refurbished one of our sites in 2017 and installed Tokheim pumps, tills and their ICASA back office. Everything was fine with the pumps and tills but we were unhappy with the back office and moved to a different provider on a referral from our local rep.

"The reason for the email is that we were previously paying quarterly for the ICASA solution. This amounted to £285 per quarter. When we changed back office over to ITS in September/October 2018 all was fine until February 2019. Tokheim were still charging us for ICASA but had renamed the line on the invoice to read Lumix data tool."

He explained that Lumix is a software tool that links to the old Torex/Micros/Oracle Prism software. "We obviously cannot use it. I have tried and tried and tried to get someone in TSG to listen to me and get the line removed. I have rung to speak to the contract person who is never in the office and never calls you back. I have emailed the accounts department several times and spoken to our rep who agrees that we shouldn’t be getting charged for it. No one ever replies and I just keep getting sent the incorrect invoice every quarter, which I pay after deducting the £285+VAT off the total."

It looked like someone needed to intervene, as proved to be the case. Tom subsequently wrote: "Thanks for sorting this! I have now received my credits!"

Choices... none of them good

On the other hand the outcome for Stanley Kydd wasn’t good. He has ATMs on both his filling stations in County Down. One site does 4,500 transactions a month and the other does around 3,000. Problem is Cardtronics has changed its deal, from free-to-use with a decent commission to three alternatives.

These are: sign a new five-year agreement on free-to-use earning 5p per transaction; see out the remainder of his existing contract (which ends November 2021) on free-to-use but earning no commission; or flip to 95p surcharge earning 10p per transaction. They reviewed his contract and said early termination wasn’t permitted.

He says: "There is no doubt that moving to a 95p charge will affect my business as transactions will drop and customers will seek out free-to-use ATMs. I have no alternative but to proceed with the new five-year contract even though I am disappointed, taking into account that I would have been in a position to obtain a higher rate of commission from several other providers."