Hartal, who runs the award-winning Rai's Wines in Birmingham, had been on a few visits to wineries via the Italian Chamber of Commerce. "You can make good contacts on these trips," he says.
Out of the blue one of these contacts, a wine and pasta importer, who latterly supplied Hartal, offered him a free trip via private jet with three other clients (hoteliers and restaurateurs) to South Africa to see the footie in the summer.
He couldn't resist it. But at Gatwick at 4am, the jet turned out to be Easyjet's, which took two days to get to Jo'Burg, via Naples, Rome and Dubai. The 'organisers' knew nothing about any arrangements and they wound up booked into a sleazy hotel in a rough part of town, among drug dealers and hookers. They were told to go to the Italian training centre the next day where it would all be cleared up.
The training camp knew nothing of their visit, either,so there were none of the promised privileges. One of the party flew home at his own cost after a day or so, followed by another the next day. Hartal and one other stuck it out, having been reassured that the trip back would be much smoother. It wasn't.
At Dubai they gave up on the 'free' tickets and got direct flights. It cost Hartal over a grand for this 'free' week so he suggested to the importer that, although he would be paying the recent £1k invoice for wine supplies (for greater quantities than he had ordered), he wasn't going to pay the £600 pasta invoice.
The importer agreed, but then Hartal got a letter from a debt collector offering to bankrupt him.
His supplier has said he will fix it if he doesn't Hartal will be considering small claims court.