Bharat Dalal’s wife Anna received a letter thanking her for supporting a local community initiative through her purchase of Barney and Echo Citizenship books for her local nominated school. The school was mentioned by name. A bill for £180 was attached and there was a follow-up cold call.

As it happened, their store, Old Man’s Premier in Oxford, had been a bit abused by Co-op customers (bear with me) who were coming in for free plastic bags after making a nominal purchase and then going next door to do their shopping where the bags were not free. The Dalals had decided to charge 5p per bag and soon had a sizeable lump of money to give to charity.

This looked pretty legit, being on behalf of the Police Community Clubs of Great Britain, and there was no pressurised selling technique. Even so, Bharat asked me: “Is this a scam?”

I did the customary searches, mostly okay, but I found one head teacher whose school’s name had been used by the same marketing company and she had received no books. Best way to find out is to contact the school.

Anna went round there but, wouldn’t you know it, it was shut for summer holidays. Good time to get both your marking (if you are a school) or your marketing (if you are collecting dosh) done.

So she waited until they re-opened and went round again.

“The school hadn’t heard anything,” says Bharat, so they told the ‘charity’ that they were waiting for confirmation before settling the bill.

Two months later and they haven’t heard a word from either.

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