Not a very good start: Sharon Collins, from Saffrons Garage in Bodenham, Hereford, is kicking herself for signing up for a Point Four epos system. She did so because she believed that it could handle a link into Sage and fuel card bunkering, whereas her old system could not.

She signed the paperwork and she paid £7,200 upfront for the software. She got an installation date but it never happened.

"They then said unfortunately, we can’t do the link," she says.

Given that her first conversation with the company had been in February 2015, this is now getting on for a year with no sign of a resolution. I contacted Point Four and boss Patrick Boden replied: "I personally visited Sharon with our technical support manager, Andrew Storrie. What Sharon asked for was the ability to import into Sage (which is available) and for fuel bunkering (which was not). We agreed to do the bunkering development and this was scheduled in our Software Development Program. When we booked the installation date, Sharon asked if the link to Sage was included, the person she spoke to knew we did not have a full Sage link, only the ability to import into Sage. The Sage link was on our Development Road Map, but not yet scheduled with a start date for development. The call was then passed to our technical support manager, who then phoned Sharon to clarify the situation. However, Sharon now insists that the full Sage link was agreed from the outset. Sharon declined to go ahead with the installation at this time."

He attached an email that Sharon had sent to the technical support manager, which as he points out clearly states ’import into Sage’ as per the agreement.Boden adds: "I found Sharon to be a very busy, professional lady and I have no doubt that somehow Sharon has misunderstood the terminology used in our initial meeting. However, as her email clearly shows, what had been agreed is the ability to use import files not a full Sage link. I have advised Sharon, we have no problem with fulfilling the installation, but we are still waiting for confirmation of dates." I have a feeling that could be a long wait.

As Sharon says, she made it very clear right from the start that her two main points for switching were that her current old epos cannot do fuel bunkering or link into Sage. It isn’t really down to her to understand such tricky terminology.

The pros and cons of the cash machine

’Gassing Around’ wonders whether he should get an automated teller machine (ATM). For irregular readers ’GA’, as he signs himself, is a regular correspondent via email. He specialises in tricky questions.

And he wondered whether I would recommend one company over another. Not a good policy. It’s sod’s law that if I recommended one over another that the partnership would go pear-shaped. Since he won’t tell me his location (oh, he’s such a lark) I can only give this-and-that advice. If you are in a very busy area, then there will be competition: it would have to be a free-to-use one.

If you are remote from high streets and people need to drive everywhere, then you can charge. I still think though that people resent being charged to get at their own money. I know I do even though it is only reasonable that any such service comes at a price. The biggest puzzle for me is how do these service providers make any money out of offering a free-to-use machine unless, in the overall picture, they are being offset by those charging fees.

Then you have to consider whether you self-fill or go for the delivered option. Plus and minus points here too. If you go for self-fill, you have to make sure the notes are pretty good; I have heard of retailers ironing them. And, when the new polymer notes come in during the second half of this year, there will be a further headache for the self-fill retailers because ATM cassettes cannot hold both kinds of notes so it’s one or the other. There will inevitably be a period when the daily takings bank notes are too mixed for you to be able to use them to fill the machine.

If you go for the delivered option, then you’d better hope that the carrier is reliable (I have reported a couple of times about forecourts left without money for weeks).

Have a very good look at the contract too. I have had retailers call who have found that, when their through-the-wall ATM wasn’t working for them, they had the machine removed and then faced having to make good the gaping hole that was left behind.

Then there is the vexing issue of some councils upping your business rates based on transaction levels of your ATM.

Of course, the other unavoidable fact is that an ATM may prove to be the wrong kind of magnet... but one could argue that so are your alcohol and tobacco ranges.

Crawling from the woodwork

It’s a new year I hope it is a happy one for all of you and so I have a new word for you: entomophagy (apologies to those who already knew what it meant. I certainly didn’t when I first started to read about this growing trend late last year). Definition: the practice of eating insects, especially by people. There are apparently more than 2,000 types of edible insects and two billion people worldwide regularly eat them. There are already cereal bars and tortilla chips on the market made with cricket-flour. What will the EHOs make of it, I wonder?