Forecourt Trader
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Watchful retailer feeling off-colour

01 June, 2005
Page 20 
Hereís the scenario: retailer has a drawer-full of crime incident reports of drive-offs and has instructed staff to ask for payment upfront at their own discretion, either when they donít have a good view of the registration number or if the car matches the description of a recent drive-off.
Ayub Karmada, who runs Beeston Service Station in Nottingham, wasnít there when a member of staff decided one particular vehicle fitted the bill. The driver was black, the teller was Asian. When asked to pay in advance, the driver noted that no other customer there at the time (white or Asian) had been asked to do so. He showed the staff he had money on him but refused to pay upfront, lost his temper and did some damage to the store, which was reported.In January, Ayub received a letter from Sheffield Racial Equality Council telling him he may have discriminated against the customer and serving him with a detailed questionnaire on behalf of the complainant, to be returned within 21 days. Ayub has faxed most of the literature to me (more than a dozen pages), and the questionnaire that wanted to know: the number of people employed and the ethnic breakdown; the date the decision was made and whether anyone else was consulted; company policy and procedures; who else had been asked to pay in advance in the previous 12 months and so on. In all, there were a dozen questions, some of them with four or five sub questions, amounting to around 36 points which required specific information.Ayub took it to the Citizensí Advice Bureau and was advised to do as requested. So he did, explaining to Sheffield REC that in six years in business he had never had an incident like this and that he did not practice racial discrimination. He pointed out too that the police had later informed him the customerís make of car did not match the registration plate when they checked it out.Sheffield REC wrote back telling him he had missed out a few points in his reply such as providing detailed records of anyone else who had been asked to pay in advance over the previous 12 months (Ayub had merely written Ďhundredsí).The race relations people have since told him their complainant is looking for compensation for injury to his feelings in a sum not exceeding £5,000. Ayub then sought professional help and consulted a local solicitor who sounded really up to scratch.The solicitor has told him to write a letter rejecting all claims and suggesting the representative from Sheffield Racial Equality Council pays a visit to inspect the drawer-full of drive-off records which would be too difficult to fax (having explained previously what a drive-off actually is).Will bring you the next instalment when it becomes available.