== It’s good to talk ==

Back in May I recounted Alan Steele’s saga with his ’car wash consultant’.

There were endless teething troubles after the installation at his site, Steeles of Worthing, which the consultant (ie agent) subsequently couldn’t fix. The manufacturer had washed its hands of it too until Alan forced its hand, as it were, and new agents were appointed. He had instigated County Court proceedings when we last spoke in an effort to claw back some of his costs from the consultant.

"But I was concerned about having to pay a £300 court fee which I might not have got back even in the event that we won because he might not be able to afford to pay the agreed amount," says Alan.

So he took advantage of the court’s offer of mediation. "And I was very happy with the way it was dealt with. I was not forced into anything I did not want and in the event that it had been unsuccessful we still could have gone to court as planned without having to reveal what was discussed or proposed at mediation.

"I knew I was in a strong position should it proceed to court and he (the agent) knew it too. In the end I did compromise slightly on the amount that I had claimed but only slightly to show willing.

"I am pleased to say that he paid up promptly and I am now not out of pocket and am looking forward to the future without the thought of having to deal with my ’car wash consultant’ again."

Worth storing this one away should push come to shove for any of you.

== Pumping up the action ==

More feedback - Duncan Ross has responded to my report in August of Urfan Ahmed’s pumps giving away free petrol and my request for any suggestions or solutions.

"Mine did the same," he says. "Gilbarco said it couldn’t happen but it did. Then we had a software upgrade and it cured it."

Duncan, who runs Loch Carron Garage on the west coast of Scotland, is actually very pleased with Gilbarco at the moment.

"There are four or five sites in Scotland that are all getting brand new pumps," he reports.

"The heads on our pumps were rusting badly. A guy came all the way from Germany to look at them and said that shouldn’t happen so we’re getting new ones."

== Borrowed money, borrowed time ==

There are glimmers of light in these credit-crunching times. Jonathan James, who has fives sites around Cambridgeshire, has noticed that, although one site is 20% down on fuel, the shop sales on the same site are up. "It’s weird," he says, "the fuel volumes are dramatically down and the day-to-day shopping is well up. It seems people aren’t making the longer trips so they’re just shopping for what they need on a day-to-day basis."

Jonathan reminds me that getting the grocery act together will become even more important as times move further on. He has a mate in the insurance world who says his trade is debating ways and means of covering electric cars because the motoring industry has been given a deadline for delivering vehicles that run on alternatives to petrol within just a few years.

So some look-ahead retailers may be starting to see petrol as one of those living-on-borrowed-time commodities. I suspect, like cash, it will still be with us, but somewhat sidelined.

== Sweet charity or just a sour taste? ==

Keep an ear out for those charity ad space salesmen as they seem to be springing up again (the police tell me that these innovative types of scams seem to come in waves). In 13 years of writing this column I have only come across two genuine examples of cold-calling charities of this nature (one just last month which was such a surprise I wrote it up in my other column in Forecourt’s sister paper Convenience Store). The other hundreds of calls I’ve had on the subject have all been about scams, ’genuine’ scams if you like.

Nick Webster, who runs Bailey Croft Garage at Wirksworth in Derbyshire, passes on this warning for others. "I got a strange phone call - I get one every couple of years. The bloke started out all chummy asking about the weather."

The caller then ’reminded’ Nick that they had spoken before about a safety awareness campaign and books for schools and how he had agreed to participate. This obviously works on some, especially those with under managers who may assume a colleague had agreed but Nick knew better.

"We only give locally," he says. Indeed, charity does begin at home.