Paul Sheldon got in touch: “My partner (Trish) and I run a small community shop and PO on the edge of Exmoor. (One of the first dating back to 1990 and still going!) Turnover is not huge by any means, but the locals are very supportive of their shop.

“On the back of the Rural Enterprise Scheme, we have been fortunate enough to obtain a grant from the Lottery Fund to replace our old and outdated chiller and freezer. I dutifully obtained quotes as required from FFD and CED. Both companies quote ‘free delivery in the UK’. When I placed the order with FFD I did advise them that although access to the village could be a challenge, it is not impossible: large tractors, horse boxes, dustcarts, buses, and builders merchant vehicles and even a car transporter manage to pass through the village.”

The company said no problem and the couple removed the old equipment ready to receive the new. Paul also removed part of the front door to make delivery easier, “and took the opportunity to replace the flooring in anticipation of some shiny new kit”.

Delivery day came and went. “The transport company thought the roads might be a problem and they delayed the delivery.” Okay, he thought, these things happen; delivery replanned, although they were now losing sales of chilled.

Eventually, the driver phoned and said he would be there within the hour. Three hours later Paul rang FFD to ask when they could expect delivery and was told that the driver decided he could not get into the village and was returning to Manchester.  “One of the villagers actually saw the lorry, which was less than two miles from the shop.”

FFD eventually said it could re-arrange the delivery in a smaller vehicle at an extra cost of £350. “Reminding them of the free delivery anywhere in the UK claim I told them to cancel the order and refund my money.” 

Paul then contacted CED. “Although they were more sympathetic it transpires that the units I want are only delivered by one transport company, Hadfields of Manchester.”

As he concludes: “It seems my choices are limited. Pay the extra for delivery, or unload on the nearest main road and arrange the remaining transport myself in the back of a horse box!  Is it a wonder that small enterprises such as ours give up? It seems to me that the big boys are all guilty of crushing rural communities.”