A man walks into Subhash Patel’s Spar store in Richmond, Surrey, and explains that he has just moved in and is running a business in the building opposite. In a business-to-business spirit he runs down the ways that they can mutually benefit. The ‘neighbour’ will need to buy in bulk for his office so places a cash on delivery order for daily deliveries of 12 national newspapers and a weekly delivery of eight cases of Evian and Volvic mineral water (1.5ltr). Then he buys £153-worth of fags, paying with a Royal Bank of Scotland business cheque.

Subhash says: “He spent a good 20 minutes chatting to me. He gave me a cheque in an envelope. I said it didn’t look like a cheque but he said that’s because it had been pre-printed on his computer.”

Afterwards, Subhash visited Avalon House, the building where the man claimed to work for Silvine Designs (letterhead says Queensway, Bayswater, West London) and workers there told him that no one had moved in lately.

He tried to ring the Bayswater number on the letter heading and so did I, but all you get is a meaningless message (“The person you are trying to reach is not available now”).

The bank, of course, refused to honour the cheque, although I think it gave the wrong reason. The bank said it wasn’t a ‘proper’ cheque. I still remember the news story years ago when a man wrote a cheque to Inland Revenue on the back of his shirt to get his message across that they had had the shirt off his back. Apparently, IR cashed it. But I can see from the photocopy that Subhash sent me that this one purports to be a business cheque with Silvine Design’s name on it and these do not come with guarantees.