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Service Centre with Jac Roper

01 July, 2008
Your chance to get expert help and advice
Page 18 
== Accepting cards can be a costly business ==
How many of you have noticed that accepting Arval cards is costing you money?Steve Jones, who runs Nuns' Bridges Filling Station at Thetford in Norfolk, reckons that independent operators will have noticed because they receive their statements directly."But if you are with a fuel supplier where the credit card charge is part of the overall deal, you might not, because the charges are picked up by the oil company. But you'll certainly be paying for it somewhere in the deal," remarks Steve.A couple of months ago Steve decided enough was enough and started surcharging for Arval cards - not to make a profit, just to cover his costs."My reasoning was that it was better to try this approach rather than just walk away from the business and abandon my customers. But I was prepared to walk away all the same if common sense didn't prevail," he adds."I firmly believe that the customer should pay for credit. Just try booking a cheap flight or a theatre ticket and see how much they charge."Steve, who has been in the business for 19 years, reckons that in 1990 for example, when petrol was around 70-80p per litre, he would have made around 25p on a £7-8 sale of 10 litres.Those same 10 litres now clock up sales of around £13 and he will still make roughly 25p while Arval continues to take its near 2%, which equals 26p gross, leaving him one penny in the red before taking into account all the other costs."You've got to buy the fuel, store it and pump it to the cars, plus you've got to pay the cashier's wages and the bank charges," he adds. "Then you have to wait two weeks to be paid."Arval says he is in breach of contract (the contract says he can charge less but not more than the equivalent cash price) and claims that footfall should compensate."Sooner or later Arval won't have a business. They seem to think that we need them more than they need us. We don't."There comes a time in business when you must remember the old adage 'turnover is vanity but profit is sanity'."I wonder how many sites Arval are prepared to lose before they realise they have no network or Catalist info to sell?"== Rescue package == Following my report on the possibility of a rescue package for the customers of Big Media, I got several calls from retailers asking to be put in touch. I was about to do so when I got a call from Geoff Ready who works for the liquidators' agents Roland Jones & Partners. They have just wound up a deal with a different company (rather than the one which had contacted me in an exploratory sort of way).Eurowide Media has acquired Big Media (as I write this they are still looking at the paperwork). The company, with a background in this type of selling, also owns Retail Media Works which manages the 170 'Firebrand' sites operating in Sainsbury's Local stores.Maurizio Caruso, chief operating officer, told me: "It is an act of faith. We believe there is a market there and we believe there will be synergy between Big Media and Retail Media Works so we will look at putting the two together. Any retailer interested in this should call Anna Wrobel on 0208 426 3904.== Sarcastic? Moi? ==Every so often, among the forwarded/forwarded/forwarded funnies I get on email, come the 'warning...this is no joke' variety. Last week I got a 'petrol prices solution'. Instead of the usual exhortation to boycott on a certain day, this one recommended the following:"For the rest of this year don't purchase any petrol from the two biggest oil companies (which now are one), Esso and BP. If they are not selling any petrol, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit. But to have an impact we need to reach literally millions of Esso and BP petrol buyers."This highly excitable email (I have removed all the capital letters and exclamation marks) continued: "If each of you send it to at least 10 more (30 x 10 = 300)... and those 300 send it to at least 10 more (300 x 10 = 3,000) ... and so on, by the time the message reaches the sixth generation of people, we will have reached  over three million consumers."By the end of the sums the writer had got the figure up to three hundred million and reckoned this could be achieved in eight days.It concluded: "Please hold out until they lower their prices to the 69p a litre range and buy your petrol at Shell, Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, Jet etc."Well, dream on.I didn't forward - although, in a sense, I have 'informed' Forecourt Trader's readership!