In my last column I reported on the huge upheaval that Kumar Selvakumar’s Black Horse Service Station in east London’s Walthamstow had undergone due to roadworks. These were not just any old roadworks.
It was a £30m programme to turn the area into a ’mini Holland’ with cycle paths galore after Waltham Forest Council won its bid in a £100m competition run by Transport for London and mayor Boris Johnson, who is keen to roll out his BoJo bike scheme.
While all the work was taking place, Kumar’s station looked more like a building site, and business has been badly hit.
He tells me that the builders have now finally removed all their kit but customers’ habits have obviously changed; the nearby tube station shutting for three weeks didn’t help.
The cycle path meant that Certas Energy couldn’t get its artics onto the site and had to use smaller tankers, meaning reduced, but more frequent deliveries with its obvious impact on cash flow (and ironically not helpful to congestion and road safety as Certas itself has said; furthermore when the area manager spent an hour visiting he didn’t spot any cyclists).
Kumar officially complained to Waltham Forest Council which replied that he would get a response within 10 days. On the 10th day he got a letter that said ’Case closed’.
The Highways department told him they had done research that showed you could turn an artic onto the site; therefore no compensation. Kumar is now waiting for Certas to organise an artic that will be seen on camera trying to turn in.
Hopefully the council’s fine theory will be overturned by the practical proof.
Surely they could spare some of that £30 million in a bit of compensation?
It’s just like cycling uphill
Double trouble: it’s on the cards
In the August issue I wrote that an anonymous retailer had asked how many people knew that the new Allstar One card is actually dual branded as a Keyfuels card. Customers have the option of using it for a debit/credit card Allstar Chip and PIN transaction or as a discount diesel Keyfuels card.
After reading this, Gordon Balmer, commercial manager at the PRA, who confirmed what I had reported: that the margins on Allstar One are very different to those on Keyfuels and adds that the fear is that independents who make up the majority of Keyfuels’ sites could end up having to accept substantially lower margins.
One member had reported: "We have refused to take this card on our bunker site and this was queried by Allstar."
He says his worst fears were confirmed. "This customer is a local school who have a few vans. They have been offered the Allstar One card, which effectively now gives them access to Keyfuels prices and there is no minimum fuel purchasing requirement on that card."
Keyfuels had told him that theirs was 20,000 litres per week.
The PRA took a survey of its members and wants to take up the matter with Allstar so I urge you to get in touch and add your voice.
As Gordon Balmer says: "This card is cannibalising margins. This is an industry issue."
A night time con trick
This is a chilling story. Tom Dant, a director at Gill Marsh Forecourts (three petrol stations and Spar stores in Bilsby, Partney and Ulceby Cross in Lincolnshire) tells me that the business has suffered a huge fraud amounting to £23,000.
They put in pay-at-pump at the Ulceby site last year. In February of this year they noticed that their night sales were going up to two-to-three thousand litres a night. All apparently authorised.
In March the chargebacks started. The police caught the guy the next day although they didn’t have enough evidence to lock him up. He had around 12 different cards on him. And still the chargebacks kept arriving.
Here is probably what happened. The man with the van made it look like just a bloke filling up, but inside the van was a tanker capable of taking around 1,100 litres. Others in the gang were look-outs. Then they would take the fuel and flog it for a quid a litre in a nearby town.
Meanwhile, the Micros system allowed this to happen and Worldpay did not flag up that around 16 spurious transactions had taken place.
Police theory is that sometimes foreigners spend a bit of time here, get a credit card and, when they return to their own country, they sell their card to a criminal gang. It then isn’t their purchase and anyway, they are not here.
Tom says they have now set the pump to never accept the same card for more than one transaction within an hour. But, as he ruefully says: "We paid to be a test for Micros in the end."
He had spotted that I had got a retailer’s money back for her from Worldpay in an August issue of Forecourt Trader’s sister paper Convenience Store.
But it was just £130 and involved one cleverly-doctored card. But, as I observed to him, I wouldn’t have much clout with Worldpay when it comes to 23 grand.
The PRA is trying to help and I did recommend that the business approaches the Financial Ombudsman after all, £23k won’t mean as much to Worldpay as it does to Tom and Co.