How many of you have contracts for pay-to-use cash machines with a few years to run? I ask as I’ve had a steady trickle of you getting in touch on the subject.

One such was Darren Cryne, who informs me that it has been a talking point on the Premier Stores’ Discussion Forum. Someone suggested that Darren should call me after seeing stories on the subject in my past three columns.

Darren’s Premier, which trades in Scunthorpe, has a Cashzone machine via Payzone. It’s a freestanding unit which sits at the back of the store, charging £1.60 per transaction. He has one year to go on a six-year contract so he has had a good innings.

But now, three doors down, there is another store offering a free-to-use service.

Naturally, Darren contacted his supplier with the bad news. “Cashzone said it won’t affect me, but I said maybe not if I were on a busy high road, but I’m in a small neighbourhood where all the customers are regulars, so that won’t be the case.”

Cashzone has offered to monitor the situation for a few weeks then the option would be to remove the machine, or charge £150 a month rental on a free-to-use one.

“There are a lot of companies out there that are willing to give me a free-to-use machine,” he observes. Meanwhile, he will have to wait (and he says he is now offering his customers cash back if they ask).

It rather reminds me of the photocopy era. I know some of you still make a good fist of this service because of your location, but I also know how many people have printers at home these days.

Times change and it really looks like the days of customers paying to get at their own money are numbered, although there will need to be a balance on the proliferation of free ATMs. Transactions will need to be high, otherwise how will the middle man (and I don’t mean the retailer) make any money?