== The old and the young ==
Age discrimination of course works at both ends of the scale. Terry Paget, who runs Oasis Service Station in Broughton, North Devon, wondered how he should now word his ads for new staff. He wasn’t worried about old staff, but the young ones. Over the years he has hired dozens of youngsters. "We have previously always said that applicants must be 18 or over."
We pondered whether he should now word the ad to include the fact that staff had to be old enough to sell age-related goods like petrol, alcohol and cigarettes?
To find out I rang the DTI’s press office and sent Terry to its public enquiry point.
The spokeswoman I consulted said the main point of the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 was to give older people the same sort of rights that all other members of society have already been given through other legislation (the disabled, the pregnant, new fathers and so on).
She said: "Alistair Darling (trade and industry secretary) said it’s more a cultural change, but common sense must be part of it. If you wanted to recruit a deep-sea diver, you probably wouldn’t want an 80-year old man. And equally an HGV driver has to be over a certain age. So we say, if it is objectively justified, then it is okay to specify an age. It is also alright to ask people for their age and date of birth at interviews because you need to know they are who they say they are."
The public enquiry point sent Terry to ACAS to check if he could put a minimum age in the ads. (It makes sense to consult ACAS on any iffy employment issues because it is ACAS’ job to ensure harmony in the work place and to intervene if things go wrong. In other words they run the tribunals.)
ACAS said there is no legal obligation to put in an explanation so it was perfectly fine to continue wording the ads as he always has, but also said he should be prepared to justify it if challenged.
== Missing money ==
You probably think you keep a close eye on your Visa polling. Henry Curran, from Lightmore Service Station in Belfast, was in the middle of a VAT period and didn’t pick up until the end of that period that £60,000 of Visa transactions had not been polled.
"I had to pull out 6,500 Visa sheets, which took me two to three weeks, and send them off," says Henry. "A total of £52,000 was retrieved but there were 200 chargebacks where people couldn’t remember and there are £8,000-worth of missing receipts. I thought Visa was supposed to be guaranteed money."
He adds that the service provider is now telling him that his floor limit is zero. "In my books it was £60. Did they just change the rules?"
It remains a bit of a mystery as to why the black hole - when the service provider did not physically poll for three months - occurred. The company told him it is unprecedented and that they can’t poll if he doesn’t poll. "But even if we were wrong, why wasn’t it flagged up somewhere? Surely the policy should be that if they can’t poll for a day or two they would notify us?"
Meanwhile his oil company is working hard on his behalf to sort the problem out.
== Moving the goalposts ==
Not for the first time I’ve had complaints about Cardpoint changing transaction fees and, in this case, attempting to cancel them altogether.
Steve Dyer, who runs Knight Brothers, Thornfalcon Garage in Taunton, Somerset, was so ticked off when he got a letter from Cardpoint telling him that commission on the first 150 ATM transactions was being withdrawn, that he switched off his machine.
The letter, which has been sent to numerous Cardpoint retailers, said his transaction level was too low to cover operating costs and the usual transaction commission of 95p per withdrawal normally paid to retailers. From Oct 1, commission would only be paid monthly after 150 transactions had taken place. This would halve Steve’s commission for the machine which he pays to lease.
He made several attempts to get through to someone at Cardpoint but no-one returned his calls. For good measure Steve not only switched off the ATM function, he switched off the Cardpoint e-top ups as well and he does £1,000 a week on those.
This got the company’s attention and someone got back to him with a far better outcome. The letter has been retracted with the company saying that he had been sent it in error. The company said it had removed his machine "from the list of machines that will be having reduced payments made". In other words, other retailers will not be so lucky.
"They’re very keen to say these machines create footfall," says Steve. "But they are our customers coming through the door. The vast majority of those using the ATM just take the money and walk out."
If you get a similar letter, he advises challenging it (although he had a couple of sticks to use in terms of a leased machine and an attractive e-top up revenue).