Jac Roper: on the end of a phone to help with your problems

In this month’s instalment of Service Centre I contact PayPoint for a Northern Ireland forecourt needing SSE gas cards, and come across a garage in Kirby being threatened with a customer boycott if it continued selling The Sun. 

Stanley Kydd, who runs Frances St Filling Station in Newtownards, County Down, emailed to say that he was looking for some help with PayPoint.

“I requested a supply of SSE Gas cards for my store on March 12 and have been chasing them for updates and, as you will see from the emails below, someone in Retail Care is not even aware that they supply SSE cards in Northern Ireland.

“It’s incredible that such a minor request should take this length of time to resolve.”

First of all he put in the following request to PayPoint: “Would it be possible for my site to be added to receive SSE cards going forward please as we are being asked for them on a daily basis?”

The company replied that it had put the request forward and that it would be reviewed and Stanley would be contacted.

He then asked them if they could confirm that PayPoint was still supplying SSE cards. This drew the puzzling response: “In the area we provide only Firmus and Phoenix Energy, and this site is already a stockist for Firmus Energy.” It added that if the retailer did not have enough stock it could order more supplies.

It also said that it was still waiting for an update on his request, adding: “We no longer provide SSE keys and cards, as they changed over to OVO so would only be able to supply OVO gas cards now.”

To which he replied: “I am based in Northern Ireland and we do not have OVO cards.”

Stanley added: “At the outset they were adamant that they did not supply SSE cards until I sent a picture of one with PayPoint on it.”

I contacted the company and a spokesperson for PayPoint said: “We’re grateful for having had this brought to our attention. Our customer service team is actively engaged with the retailer partner in question and we look forward to resolving the enquiry with them as soon as possible.”

Eventually Stanley got back in touch: “We have finally got a positive resolution even though it took quite a number of emails to achieve what should have been a simple conclusion.”

While Stanley and I were to-ing and fro-ing over gas cards he also raised the subject of news carriage charges.

He said: “I know this subject has been covered over many years, however it is now getting to the point where the retailing of newspapers is getting to a situation of non profit due to the dwindling sales and the ever rising carriage charges.

“Every product except newspapers stocked by a retailer is delivered free of charge as the delivery cost is built into the price of the product.

“We have just been informed to the yearly increase of our delivery charge and we are unable to recoup that charge as publishers set the retail price.

“In my view the publishers should have the retail price set so it includes delivery.

“Hope you can help in some way by highlighting this, however given the fact that the Newsagents Federation have had no success over many years I understand that it may fall on deaf ears.”

As I replied to him, I’m sure everyone agrees with him on this – except for the distributors of course. I assured him that I would highlight his views in Forecourt Trader although I expect he is right about the deaf ears!

Applying The Sun block 

The 1989 Hillsborough disaster may have been 35 years ago, but memories of the event are still raw and feelings towards The Sun newspaper remain bitter partilculary on Merseyside, as I discovered from a post on social media recently.

The tragedy led to 97 deaths and hundreds of injuries of Liverpool fans before an FA Cup Semi Final. 

The crushing at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, on April 15, 1989, was largely attributed to mistakes made by the police.

A boycott of The Sun took hold in Merseyside after the newspaper published an article on 19 April 1989, titled The Truth. It made false and damaging claims about the behaviour of Liverpool supporters during and after the disaster. The bullet points on its front page said ‘some fans picked pockets of victims’ and ‘some fans urinated on the brave cops’ and ‘some fans beat up PC giving kiss of life’.

Sales of the tabloid dropped significantly. Campaigns against the newspaper including Total Eclipse of the Sun and Shun the Sun first aimed to decrease purchases of the tabloid, and then supply of it by retailers.

Then the other day I came across this on social media where someone wrote: “There is a new petrol station by the Costa (by Liverpool’s training ground, Kirkby). I saw that they were selling the rag two weeks ago and I asked to speak to the staff member. Told him and he said he will tell his manager. I discovered this morning, that they were still selling it!!

“I’ve just returned and indicated that I would be starting a campaign to boycott the garage, and they agreed that they will never sell it. I think there has been multiple complaints from Kirkby people which makes me real proud. Don’t buy the S#n. Don’t sell the S#n. Justice for the 97.”

Someone else commented: “I’m in Scotland and whenever I see it I pick up whatever other papers are there and stick some in front of it. Actually did it in petrol station just this morning.

“Some wag called it applying sun block.”

You can email your queries, news and views to Jac@roper-biz.co.uk or call 0208 8502 9775.