Atul Rai rang me from his Premier store in Slough after he read my story about Shobhana Patel’s tussle with Coca-Cola (6 December). For those who don’t remember it, her new rep said if Shobhana didn’t stock the free-loan Coca-Cola-branded cooler exclusively with Coke’s products, it would be removed. A routine written warning followed. When I wrote up her story Shobhana was still at the negotiation stage.
Atul reckoned that it was all hot air. “I always put my foot down,” he says, when the rep moans about him stocking other products in his on-loan chiller. “If I say take it away then, they say it costs more to take it away.”
He’s right, of course. The chiller, now several years old, will be worth next to nothing. He points out, too, that if the cooler is in a small store and was a sort of a ‘fitted fridge’ and difficult to access without damaging other fittings, the company would be disinclined to remove it.
When I rang Shobhana back to see how the negotiations were going she told me the cooler had been removed that morning.
“The way they were handling it I could tell they were just going to junk it. It was about six years old.”
There are a few more facts here you should know. Shobhana was in the process of selling the store and the new owner wasn’t interested in keeping the cooler. It’s a large store so removal was easy.
And it turns out she was stocking milk in the bottom of the cooler. When I rang Atul back to tell him he laughed out loud. “Milk! You don’t want milk in a cooler! So I don’t blame them. I have to say to her ‘Darlin’, you are taking the mick.”