Forecourt Trader
Home
Menu

This month - help for Horizon victims plus a happy ending for one retailer

03 May, 2011
Help and advice from Jac Roper
Page 16 

Justice is on the Horizon

I've reported dozens of times (in Forecourt Trader's sister paper Convenience Store) on the misfortunes of subpostmasters who found themselves victims of glitches in their Horizon accounting systems. 'Glitches' is such an oops-'scuse-me sort of word isn't it? Like 'blip' or 'hiccup'. Nothing too serious. Yet this is the term used by various groups involved in cases that have seen subpostmasters ruined, bankrupted, even imprisoned for false accounting when they desperately tried to cover mysterious missing thousands the average amount was £35,000 to avoid prosecution.

Eventually the subpostmasters held meetings en masse and the Justice For Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA) was formed and legal team Shoosmiths was apppointed to take joint action.

All these groups used the term 'glitch' as it covers such a weird and wonderful array of faults experienced by those relying on Horizon, ranging from the system managing to sell stamps when the post office was closed to phenomenal amounts of money disappearing overnight, then reappearing only to vanish again forever. I am writing about this again because I had a very distraught young lady on the phone who runs the small post office side of her father's garage and forecourt business in the West Country.

"Every Wednesday it's £800 down," she told me. "We've had £12,000 in losses in the past nine months. We've had trainer after trainer down here and they say it's spot on, no glitches." (This has always been the Post Office's official position on the subject).

The poor girl thought she was the only one until she saw it reported that legal action against the post office was about to commence on behalf of 55 others.

Believe me she is in really good company with many men and women, who only got the job in the first place because they were good with figures and had blameless reputations.

And she is, if anything, more fortunate than most. The post office doesn't represent her livelihood as the petrol station is doing okay.

I was able to point her at the website, jfsa.org.uk, which in turn will point her at the legal team.

Chilling tale, warm ending

Sometimes I can sort things out for readers. But some organisations, energy suppliers for instance, don't care what I write about them but others do very much.

Unsurprisingly this includes refrigeration companies with a big stake in the convenience sector. Usually, when they know they have screwed up, they move to set it straight. So, I'm pleased to report that Garry Haigh is now sorted. It was a bit of a saga though.

He runs his father's Spar store in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire. The rest of the family run the forecourt and work in the shop.

Last September, Garry bought a 1.3m multi-deck chiller to use in the café for £1,899 plus vat. The deal came with 40 cases of 24 x 500ml Highland Spring and the free stock duly arrived.

The chiller turned up but when turned on, it didn't work. An engineer provided by the company diagnosed damage in transit. A replacement was sent which had exactly the same fault. The retailer took pics on his iPhone and the company accepted this saying there was actually a fault with the batch. By now it was March and still no chiller. When Garry contacted me he said he had been contacting the company twice a month.

Meanwhile, as he has been without a chiller for six months, he paid a local engineer to repair his old fridge at a cost of £600. He doesn't have space for two chillers and although it would be nice for him to have the back-up of the repaired one, it wouldn't make financial sense. He said he would prefer his money back.

It only took one email to get the refund in the post and, as a sign of goodwill, he was allowed to keep the free stock. (I should think so, I can hear you muttering, but there are a lot of companies that are far harder to deal with).

King of all he surveys

I expect when you pack up after a busy day you are glad to get away from it all. Difficult sometimes. But here's one guy who has managed it in spades. Don Sammons runs a one-man band in a one-man town in Burford, Wyoming. Not only is the 60-year old the only man in town, there are no women or children either.

Don runs a gas station and convenience store (selling mainly souvenirs) 8,000 ft up a mountain and gets 1,000 visitors a day in the summer as people literally stop in their tracks when they see the place in the middle of nowhere. In the winter though this drops to around 100.

He commutes 200 yards to work and he says he likes it just fine.

Paying the electric bill

The cost of petrol is making the electric car look like a more frugal option. I have a learned article (well, from The Times) in front of me that includes some complicated sums based on research presented by Chris Huhne, the energy and climate change secretary.

Example: the Nissan Leaf, costs between £25-30,000 but buyers get a £5,000 purchase grant.

If driven 10,000 miles a year, it would work out cheaper than its petrol-drinking equivalent in four years (taking into account no road tax, no London Congestion Charge and reduced parking rates).