Why should you have to chase your supplier for commission owed? It can’t be because they are strapped for cash. Surely not in the case of ATM provider TRM, a global corporation able to afford Pricewaterhouse Coopers as accountants.
Why then did Adrian Bowen have to lobby the company for 11 months for his commission? At his Penrhyn Beach Service Station in North Wales he does between £4-5K a week through his ATM service that charges customers £1.65 which is split between TRM and the agent, in this case Adrian.
They owed him more than £1,000 by August when he rang to tell me the story. "I did change my bank account in May but TRM knew this and anyway it should be paid monthly. They take their money quick enough. I’ve now threatened to rip the machine out in seven days." It worked. He got the cheque but no interest for the 11 month’s waiting.
ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK
Maybe one in a hundred people ’forget’ to pay for petrol and even that seems like stretching a statistic. An operator in Suffolk, who prefers to stay anonymous, has had such an ongoing battle with Suffolk County Constabulary and the police stations under its command that it leads you to wonder whose side are they on anyway?
First drive-offs were a crime; then deemed a civil matter, then agreed it was indeed a crime. Now Suffolk police have done another U-turn and refused to open a crime file on several occasions having decided once again that it’s a civil matter.
My correspondent suffers around seven drive-offs a week among the service stations he runs, a statistic that is steadily rising whereas the official support to combat this crime is steadily decreasing. "In three years of practical service station experience there have only ever been two cases where the person concerned returned and paid up, apologising that they had simply forgotten to do so earlier," he writes in a letter that has gone out to several police stations, Suffolk County Constabulary and his MP.
The sums are frightening. The commission earned is 0.5p per litre. A drive-off of, say, £30, means having to sell 6,000 litres of fuel to make up for the loss. "That amounts to almost a day’s fuel sales at some of our sites," he adds.
THE COST OF LOCAL ADS
In the last issue I trawled for some feedback about SD Media that sells local advertising space which it places around the neighbourhood on screens in places like post offices and doctors’ surgeries. Retailers had complained that cold-calling reps filled in direct debits that brought the cost of the ads up to £900 in some cases and also said they could not find the ads on show where they were claimed to be.
When I spoke to SD Media about it the company told me that its terms are crystal clear, being printed across the middle of the contract.
Retailers have subsequently added that the contract is folded so the terms are obscured from view.
Mark Bradshaw, founder of Garage Watch, rang to say that he had had a similar experience a few years back with a company that had used the same modus operandum in that the rep asked him to sign a form to "verify the wording of the ad" that was to be shown in a local caravan park where his forecourt sold a lot of bottled gas. He too found an automatic direct debit in place and discovered that the contract had been folded in such a way that he hadn’t noticed the terms.
"I didn’t pay anything in the end," says Mark, "but it was a struggle. I was polite at first but the company was horribly aggressive." One to bear in mind then if anyone comes knocking and offering to make you a screen star for a trial period for roughly £100.
Once again, anyone with a similar experience should contact Richmond retailer Subhas Patel who is trying to get a case together to interest the authorities. His number is 020 8940 0803.
A FRESH IDEA
It isn’t often I get to tell about a product that has yet to come to market. There’s an anti-grease wipe on its way that looks set to be a forecourt money spinner. Packaged for consumers in individual foil sachets or multi-packs, the wipes are ideal for wiping hands that may be mucky after adding oil, changing tyres and so on. The MD behind P&S Products, Paul Woodward, acknowledges that wet wipes have been around for years but says the particular challenges presented by oil-based dirt have required considerable research and development. The wipes will clean a surface area of one square metre, and are impregnated with lanolin so one gets nicely moisturised as well.
Have a look at the website www.ps-products.co.uk and if you are interested in joint promotional activity contact Selwyn Rowley on 01926 611700.