Where was the customer service when it was needed? When you pay £3,000 a year for a service contract you rather expect a bit of prompt attention when things go wrong. In mid-February, I got a call from Khalid Mohammad who runs Shelfield Service Station in Walsall in the West Midlands.
He uses the Oracle system (previously Torex then Micros) but said he was currently 15 days behind on his paperwork because of faults in the system.
He couldn’t tally anything, couldn’t post invoices, or evaluate stock or reconcile sales data.
The system should allow daily reconciliation. He says: "We’re just taking the money and banking it. For the past two months it’s been diabolical."
He complains that he always has to ring a call centre in Romania and no one ever gets back to him or dials into his system to correct the faults.
On the day before he called me, he had been told that he would be contacted the following day, but again it didn’t happen.
Then, rather like having a tooth-ache stop the minute you manage to get a dental appointment, he finally got a call back from Oracle (nothing to do with me, just one of life’s coincidences that this happened shortly after he phoned me). The problem got sorted out after just 20 minutes on the phone.
But, as he adds: "It should have happened 16 days ago."
Khalil’s site is a 24-hour one manned by three-to-four shifts per day so one can see how reliant he is on his system.
I did contact Oracle and was thanked for my drawing attention to the case. But that was it.
This is not an April Fool
A retailer gets in touch because he can’t get an invoice out of his energy supplier. For 10 months he can’t get a bill. "Forwarding you an email I recently sent ExtraEnergy, who has been my supplier of electric since May 3, 2015," writes Huw Griffiths from his Bridgend site. "Despite submitting several meter readings, I cannot get them to send me a bill, probably owe them in the region of £20,000 to date. Phone calls and emails also get no response. Can you possibly help? I am sure it makes a change from your normal requests from retailers getting chased for money."
Well, Huw, you can say that again!
I asked him if he had been putting the money aside in a tin somewhere and he replied: "Yes, it’s a big tin."
Fortunately, ExtraEnergy has an outside PR agency. I say this because I believe outside agencies work harder to get results for their clients than those that are ’in-house’ with a guaranteed job.
A-a-a-nyway, part of the official response read: "Unfortunately, there is an alignment issue with Mr Griffiths’ account that is preventing ExtraEnergy from producing a bill. ExtraEnergy are now working on Mr Griffiths’ issue as a priority, and are hopeful to have the problem rectified within three working days. Mr Griffiths has been contacted to explain this situation, and to answer any questions that he may have."
That’s good but there is a serious point to make here. I have had cases in the past where, for whatever reason, retailers haven’t received a bill for yonks or, even worse, been undercharged and therefore haven’t been prompted by the absence of any bill at all. And then they get a heart-attack provoking bill for backdated supplies.
Fortunately Huw keeps a weather eye out not just for bills, but for the lack of them too.
Mystery of the unwanted e-cig consignment
The store was busy. Maybe somebody called ’on behalf of Smiths News’ and got agreement for a consignment of e-cigs supplied by third party Innzone. But if they did, neither Diyan Patel, nor his wife or either of his sons remember it. They say they always ask for an email before agreeing to any deal and there was nothing in writing. When Diyan was going through the accounts for his Gilwern Garage & Post Office, he realised that he had been sent around £160-worth of goods that he knew he couldn’t sell to his Gilwern, Monmouthshire village customers. No one, from his 80% local custom, had ever asked for e-cigs. And it is looking like he will not get credited until May.
"This seems totally unfair as we did not order the items and are forced to pay for the goods."
He told Smiths News that if it was unable to assist he would speak with his local Trading Standards office.
Smiths told him to contact Innzone as all unwanted goods have to be collected by special delivery. So he did contact Innzone and was told: "From listening to the calls it did not appear that there was any issue with retaining the goods for the full trial." (Innzone copied me in on their email response so I am able to quote directly.)
So so far, not so good but as they are sale or return he will eventually get his money back.
Ironically, on the day I discussed this situation with Diyan, the Welsh Assembly was voting on whether to ban e-cigs in certain environments: public places, eating areas, anywhere near children. But it transpired that, after a row between Labour and Plaid Cymru, Plaid voted against the bill at the last minute and the assembly was tied 26-26. It therefore failed to pass.No, no, let me get the bill.