Is this the power of the press?
Hassan Mohammed copied me in on one of many emails he had been exchanging with Costcutter over the fact that they owed him £2k in rebates for his two sites in Greater Manchester (Limes Service Station in Walkden, Salford and Howich Service Station, Bolton).
He had spent the last 18 months emailing the company which he had quit when Palmer & Harvey collapsed. He writes: "I have emailed the rep about 20 times and rang him around 100 times. He never picks his phone up. I got confirmation from the customer service team that he still uses the same email address and same phone number."
I contacted Costcutter and a group spokesperson replied: "Rewarding our retailers’ loyalty with prompt payment of our sector-leading rebates, every six weeks, is a fundamental way in which we do business. We have been in contact with Mr Mohammed over the past week and have apologised for the delays he has experienced in receiving the rebates owed to him. Part payment was made when his account was closed with us 18 months ago. However, given the extraordinary circumstances we faced at the time with the collapse of P&H, in this isolated incident, an error was made. We have recalculated and are processing the correct amount owed to Mr Mohammed now this has been brought to light."
(Although, as Hassan said, he’d been bringing it to light for a year-and-a-half.)
I got back in touch with Hassan and he said Costcutter had indeed been in touch for his bank details.
He added: "18 months of dodging me and suddenly the matter is resolved in a couple of weeks... it does wonders just cc’ing you into an email."
The other half of the problem
I have already reported a couple of times on Andrew Wallace’s problems with TLM’s evoPOS system at his Newton Gardens Filling Station in Dumfries but that was really only one half of his story, as he seems to have had a similarly big problem with Tokheim Service Group (TSG) and the incompatibility between the two companies’ systems.
His outdoor payment terminal was due to be installed last summer but the pumps arrived two weeks early. There was no way he could have had the installation then but Andrew was charged a cancellation fee for their mistake. Not a good start.
By June TLM were booked. TSG then cancelled the installation. This caused more problems and there were even more. To sum up the rest: there followed glitch after mistake after screw up. Tankers had to be cancelled out of hours and there was huge disruption to the site.
There were mix-ups with various engineers, wrong tools and wrong timings. Pumps connected to wrong tanks. Error codes appearing... then all pumps off. I’ll cut short the agony as I’m sure reading this catalogue of errors is uncomfortable. But I did forward it all on to TSG saying I was sure they would respond.
And here it is: "We acknowledge there has been a number of challenges with Mr Wallace’s site from both parties, however every effort has been made to put right the issues raised. We continue to communicate with Mr Wallace to find a conclusion to our work agreement so that we all have a satisfactory outcome."
Is it strategy or is it competition?
Not for the first time a disgruntled forecourt operator has contacted me anonymously about what he and several other Nisa retailers see as unfair pricing in their Nisa world compared to the Co-op owner’s world. He sent me this from the Nisa partners online forum: "Very annoyed and disappointed to find our local Co-op is selling the 4pk regular Coke at £3 (Nisa £3.96); Diet and Zero £2.70 (Nisa £3.96). It’s not so long ago Co-op bigwigs stated that all deals would be in line with the Co-op."
There was more in this vein and I put it all to Nisa. A spokesman replied: "Nisa’s promotional alignment with Co-op went live in late May and sales performance has been very strong since, with the new promotional calendar bringing significant partner benefits. Nisa remains a standalone business and reviews and selects the best promotions with the broadest appeal to independent retailers, while Nisa partners are able to set their own pricing structure."