Forecourt Trader

Mo'gas: An irreverent view from the network

01 February, 2005
Page 50 
IF THERE'S ONE MONTH thatís absolutely guaranteed to make me feel utterly depressed itís January. The month starts off badly, screwed by yet another fatuous Bank Holiday, and hardly improves till the capital F of February appears on the horizon. To begin with thereís the petrol tanks filled to the brim because you didnít want to run out over Christmas. Every year I look at the previous yearís sales when placing my tanker orders and every year I think ďI know thatís what we did then but I darenít risk running out and with no deliveries for four days Iíd better play safeĒ. And every year Iím filled to overflowing. Then thereís absolutely crap fuel sales Ė we know that the first couple of weeks after Christmas everybody is skint, but why does it have to take till February before normal activity is resumed. Then thereís the New Year Resolutions. Now Iím sorry, this Resolution thing may offer some short-term soul-cleansing but donít the public realise that we NEED our cigarette and confectionery sales to keep our bottom line in black ink! Last, but not least, is the almost guaranteed tumble in fuel prices. If the hypers looked at their previous yearís sales they would know that cutting 10p off a litre wonít get the buggers to buy more, so whatís the point of giving margin away?
OF COURSE, THE COMBINATION OF FULL petrol tanks and big drops in pole-sign prices used to be the final knee in the groin. In the pre-Plattís deals days most of us were faced with the choice of either blowing our brains out to keep sales slowly rising or holding on to the margin for the sales we were still making to the three customers a day who stayed loyal. And itís been the move to Plattís pricing that, despite all the depressed sales misery, would have put a smile on most retailersí faces over the past six to eight weeks. Margins of 8-10p a litre donít happen very often!THERE'S PARKINSON'S LAW, thereís Murphyís Law, thereís Hutberís LawÖ and now I give you Moígasís Law Ė the Law of Unintended Consequences. Put simply, this law states that whenever the Nanny State decides to intervene to Ďsafeguardí the interests of its poor, mistreated citizens, there are always people who end up worse off than before. Last month I highlighted the OFTís pressure to reduce the intercharge fee banks could make for non-customers using an ATM. The result has been the banksí retreat from free-to-use non-bank sited ATMs and their replacement with fee-paying machines. The punter is paying more!CONSIDER THE DISABLED DESCRIMINATION ACT. Designed to ensure that disabled people have access to the same facilities as the non-disabled, the idea was that providers of services would upgrade their existing facilities. Very laudable. I donít know how typical I am, but faced with estimates of £7,500+ to upgrade our customer toilets to enable disabled access, my reaction has been to close them completely. Now I comply with the law. By the same token, my existing able-bodied customers no longer have access to something they previously enjoyed. Number of disabled customers in wheel chairs I had before the law? None. Number of non-disabled customers Ė1,250 a day. Moígas Law! Incidentally, is there something special about toilets at a petrol station? Is there a secret sign somewhere that directs the dirtiest, filthiest, most disgusting dregs of British society to use only our loos? My cleaners are very grateful indeed to the DDA! THESE DAYS THE SUBJECTS OF GLOBAL WARMING and the need for eco-friendly policies never seem to be far from the front pages. Adverts and slogans assault you from everywhere. So why is it that so many big companies seem to alter their invoice procedures and replace one piece of paper with three or four. Arval PHH used to send out one sheet that was perfectly adequate Ė now itís three, mainly empty, pages. I recently terminated the rental of a BT phone. BTís invoices used to be one A5 sheet. To tell me I had £2.35 in credit took BT seven sheets of A4! Roll on February Ė even Iím fed up with my own moaning!