== Big Media, big bang ==

What are all you retailers out there with Big Media screens going to do with them? The company went into voluntary liquidation on April 18 with a deficiency of £672,000. It is reckoned that assets might realise just £16,000.

I see from the 19-page insolvency practitioners’ report, kindly faxed to me by Janine Sharpless of the David Taylor Group, that they are not alone in being one of the unlucky creditors. After some of the big names like HM Revenue and Customs, HSBC Bank, and Finance Wales Investment and then a variety of utilities suppliers and computer companies, I spotted many others which were obviously petrol retailing operations some of whose names I recognised (and apparently there are 230 sites with screens).

Most of the petrol retailers were down as being owed, on average, a couple of thousand (except for one really strange one which stood out: Costcutter, owed £2.34). Another exception was the David Taylor Group, down for £10,387. Janine herself reckons the figure is more like £33,000, owed to David Taylor’s five sites, in promised advertising revenues from space sold by this failed ’digital signage solutions group’.

At the meeting, Inland Revenue and Finance Wales both gave Darren Briggs, director of Big Media (and previously of Big Oil) a hard time for not declaring his company insolvent sooner. Apparently both had previously served CCJs against the company. David Taylor had threatened Big Media with a winding up order in March and Janine reckons this may have prompted Darren Briggs to finally make the move.

Now these retailers are stuck with screens with time left on their contract with the leasing company which I don’t imagine they will be able to crawl out of as they have the kit (ie the screens) in their stores.

So, as I said at the beginning, what will you all do with those screens? I ask in all seriousness as perhaps somebody, somewhere has a solution?

== The missing numbers ==

Richard Cooke wrote to say that he had tried in vain to contact Chris Mitchener about a licence for his forecourt in Keswick, Cumbria using the details I included in a piece in our March issue along with a recommendation about Chris’ new company. Well, I am a klutz. I got both numbers wrong. In my defence I’ll add that the number five on my keypad seems to be wearing out. Correct numbers are: 07831 159450 and phone/fax 01489 583932.

== Third party poopers ==

Here is a cautionary tale from Alan Steele, from Steeles of Worthing, who has instigated County Court proceedings against his car wash consultant.

The consultant seemed very capable with regards to the initial consultation but the problems started as soon as they got planning permission. "With hindsight, the main problems relate to the fact that the company is exactly as its name suggests - consultants rather than engineers," writes Alan.

"The first problem we had was that our existing concrete jet wash deck was not suitable for the rollover car wash so we incurred considerable additional expense and delays." He then discovered that the consultant was not doing the installation but sub-contracting it to people unfamiliar with the brand.

Then when the car wash was finally up and running Alan had no end of problems with unreliability.

The machinery supplier didn’t really want to know until Alan forced the issue. Nine months later the machinery manufacturer got involved to the extent that it is appointing a new UK agent. He has since had to source a maintenance company but has had to pay for warranty repairs and claim them back from the original consultancy.

There have been other problems but after a year the car wash is reliable and cleaning to a high standard.

"Unfortunately, it is not making the forecast profit. We have lost thousands of pounds in the last year through downtime because of unavailability of parts or an experienced engineer and unforecasted expenses and unbudgeted repairs," says Alan.

"In conclusion, I am not sure what I have learnt from all this but I think that I should have dealt with a proper car wash company in the first place and not an agent with no support or manufacturer back up."

== Scams squashed ==

Forecourt Trader has had an email from a city company with a follow up to an article I ran way back in July 2006.

PIRC, which is an independent research and advisory consultancy providing services to institutional investors, writes that, following the franking label scam conducted by Butterfly Publishing Ltd and Mailroom Direct Ltd based in Kent, the two companies are to be wound up by the Secretary of State in the public interest. I don’t know the details of PIRC’s experience with the above but it’s good to know there are some ethical companies around.