This is a story that I hope every one of you will show your staff. Tony Barlow, who runs The Mount Service Station, in Shrewsbury, writes: "I went to the garage one evening and noticed a big box of till rolls from a firm I had never dealt with before (Saxon Paper). I phoned and told them they had not been ordered and asked them to come and pick them up."
Apparently a pretty heated discussion took place during which Tony was told that the till rolls had been ordered over the phone by a member of his staff. (This is achieved, maintains Tony, by cold-calling telesales pitching agreement-seeking questions at the staff to lull them into thinking that the boss must’ve ordered them.) Telesales at Saxon eventually agreed that, if he sent back the till rolls, his account would be credited. Tony refused to pay for shipment telling Saxon that it was their responsibility to pick up their unwanted (and useless for Tony’s tills anyway) goods. Telesales said, in that case, the invoice still stood.
Tony wrote to Saxon, recorded delivery, informing them that, if the till rolls were not collected by a certain date, they would be charged £5 a week storage.
Then the threats started. C&S Wilkinson, debt collectors, advised that, if the £62.87 was not paid in seven days, court proceedings would commence and this would add another £88 in legal fees and £30 in interest onto the bill.
Tony meanwhile had notified Shrewsbury Trading Standards and Doncaster TSOs (Saxon is located in Doncaster), the Petrol Retailers’ Association, the Federation of Small Businesses and Garage Watch (he is a member of all three). He reported Saxon to the Telephone Preference Service because his phones and faxes are registered with the TPS and the Fax Preference Service to prevent unwanted calls and faxes.
Meanwhile Shropshire County Council Trading Standards had written to Saxon, reminding the company that staff had no authority to place orders and asking whether the matter could be resolved amicably. This letter was written on March 10.
On March 15, C&S Wilkinson, debt collectors, wrote again saying, if a cheque was not received within seven days, then the solicitors would immediately issue a ’clause 12’ against Tony’s company. A clause 12, says their threat, has the power to freeze your bank account; freeze all your assets to halt trading; and advertise in the local press of your insolvency. And, in addition, there would be a County Court Judgement which would render Tony unable to get credit anywhere in the UK for the next five years. Tony has sent this threat on to trading standards. He has also sent his first invoice for storage to Saxon and is about to send them a reminder, for which he is going to charge them 20 quid a time. My money’s on Tony.
Inland Revenue has admitted that its computer system for handling on-line returns was not up to scratch last summer (as I suggested in my last column).
Regular readers will remember Steve Dyer’s problem highlighted in the March issue. Steve, who runs Thornfalcon Garage in Taunton, got a demand for £800 in penalties for not getting his paperwork in on time (he had paid the tax when due) even though Steve had assumed that his filing on-line had gone through okay. Now IR acknowledges that the return was successfully filed on April 7, 2005 but its system "was not able to carry out the necessary validation checks for sometime and therefore did not reject the return until September 11". The letter includes an apology even! And there was cynical old me in the last column suggesting that, not only would Steven not get compensation, but he wouldn’t get an apology either.
However, IR tempers this apology with the ’explanation’ that Steve was actually in the wrong, because the returns submitted were for the wrong year (2003-4 rather than 2004-5), using SAGE software which "unfortunately does allow this mistake to be made". IR, looking all magnanimous, has asked for a correct return and says Steve will not be penalised and can even have the £250, as promised, for filing on-line.
Steve says he uses Iris Software and has spoken to Iris which assures him it is not possible to file the previous year’s figures. "I am not a computer whizzkid. I can only follow instructions about filing returns on-line and if the filing is not successful then I do not expect to have to wait 10 months to be advised, with the resulting 10 months of ’fines’."
Bob Wharton, who runs Royton Garage in Oldham, says he can’t be bothered to take vouchers redeemed through NCH any longer. "We used to take a lot on crisps and cigs. But NCH infuriated me. They never got it right, so I just stopped taking vouchers. The customers got used to it. We explained why. There must be a lot of other retailers doing the same as me."
I’d appreciate some feedback here.
Does your voucher house get it wrong, ever? And is it ever in your favour?