Last June I reported about the case between Sheffield Racial Equality Council (REC), acting on behalf of a black Caribbean customer and Ayub Karmada, who runs Beeston Service Station in Nottingham.
Ayub first heard from Race Relations in January 2005 after a member of his staff had asked a customer to pay up front. Staff had been told to do this at their own discretion if the car matched a recent drive-off or they couldn’t get a clear view of the registration number. The teller was Asian and the other customers were white or Asian and the Caribbean man took umbrage that he was the only one being asked to pay upfront. He did a bit of damage to the store, which was reported to the police and then went straight to the Racial Equality Council. The demand was for £5,000 for damages to the man’s feelings.
There followed about an inch of paperwork from the REC: questionnaires on procedures, employment records, ethnic breakdown of staff etc.
Citizens Advice advised Ayub to fill out all the paperwork as requested. Sheffield sent it back because he had left out the precise number of people he had asked to pay in advance over the previous 12 months. Ayub had written ’hundreds’.
Since last June, there has been a torrent of paperwork between Ayub, the REC, the police, the solicitors, the courts (two were involved as the case got transferred from Sheffield to Leeds County Court).
The police have said that the registration did not match the make of car and they have CCTV footage that Ayub had previously sent to them. The police will not release this to the REC but have said that they have attempted to arrest the guy for criminal damage. The REC seems to be digging its heels in although it offered to reduce the claim at one point to £1,500. Meanwhile Ayub has a counterclaim against the bloke for £750. Ayub sent me the paperwork by recorded delivery - there was far too much to photocopy or fax.
And in fact I have weighed up all the paperwork - literally, and it weighs two-and-a-half pounds, is now two inches thick and isn’t over yet.
Ayub reckons that the guy is a "chancer" because he is getting all his legal advice free. "For him it’s a money spinner - it has already cost us £1,200 in legal fees and we are now waiting for it to come to court."
I find the whole thing quite unbelievable. The REC must do a good job at times but they don’t seem to be in the real world on this one. I’ll bring you the next instalment when available. Let’s hope it doesn’t drag on for another full year.
With so much bad news going down in the petrol retailing sector it’s good to come across a company that seems to be doing everything right.
The Lodge family - Derek and his son Ollie - run seven sites in Hampshire and West Sussex. You may have read the feature about them in the last issue.
What is really interesting is how they manage to succeed where so many are struggling very hard. They appreciate that you have to spread your offering so they divide their business into petrol/grocery/ancillaries and they take the view that partnerships work. To this end they have teamed up with an ex-Budgens sales manager, David Knight, who wants to one day run his own independent store and they have given him their biggest and best store to run as though it were his own at Lee-on-Solent. He’s only been in the ’chair’ since January and already sales are up 6-7%.
He looked at the customer base, the competition, and he used the space available in the most effective way. He also has a degree in retail management which may have helped. But the lesson is interesting. Ollie says that you have to believe that the glass is half full and you have to invest back in your business.
Of course no matter how optimistic you are, investing back in the business is only an option if you can convince the bank to back you.
SO, WOULD A GRANT FROM ALLIANCE & LEICESTER HELP?
In a word, no. And Alliance & Leicester would be first to say that a spurious email in circulation at the moment is nothing to do with them even though their name is on the bottom of it.
Thanks to Ali Shah, who works on a forecourt in Birmingham, for forwarding it to me. I can’t think who might be taken in by it but then not everyone is a good speller. This email in particular tells "recepients" about "a cash grant/donation economic growth and poverty alleviation scheme" called Action Aid UK. It adds that "in line with the European Council" it is giving out £100m in grants to 150 recipients (spelled right this time) in different categories for business development.
No, none of it made sense to me either - it was written to sound like Euro-mumbo-jumbo.
As Floyd Jebson, press manager at Alliance & Leicester said: "This email is of course fake. Emails such as this that appear to be too good to be true are exactly that."