I guess it stands to reason that, if all life is out there, then sometimes some of it is going to walk into your store. Hence I'm no longer surprised at the messages I'm receiving about less-than-savoury, ie smelly, customers and the dilemmas posed in trying to ban them.

Given that too many of you also face violence in the workplace, these guys really do add insult to injury.

Most recently in my maggoty-malodorous sagas comes a tale from Pia Saunders who runs Greens Norton Village Stores & Post Office in Northamptonshire.

She eloquently writes about a new, problem customer: "Across the road from our village store there is a large warden-controlled sheltered housing scheme. Over the years, it has housed local elderly folk who needed a little extra help, but who were still independent. We have always had a good relationship with them - delivering stuff when needed, checking up when the warden is away and generally 'being here' for them. However, we are now getting an increasing number of other types of 'vulnerable' residents who are dumped on us by the scheme administrators. This includes a person who has only been here for two weeks, but who is already causing me huge problems. The local kids call him 'Trampy'.

Pia goes on to explain: "Apart from the fact that he looks like a tramp, and is exceedingly smelly, he has decided that my shop is his personal pantry. Whenever he feels hungry, he just pops across the road for a couple of chocolate bars or crisps, or whatever takes his fancy. Unfortunately, he does not pay for these goods. When we spot his stealing, he just hands the stuff back and walks off. His flat is apparently awash with wrappers from his ill-gotten gains, so there's plenty of evidence of his activities.

"So, why don't I just ban him?" she asks. "Trust me, I have done. I have also followed him back to his flat and had an argument with him on his doorstep where I resisted using physical force to make my point. I have also had a meeting with the housing scheme administrators, and two visits from the police - but he still keeps coming in.

"The police have been as helpful as they can, but the Crown Prosecution Service would understandably not prosecute for a few chocolate bars. The police did visit him and give him a warning, but still no joy. The housing scheme operators say that they are 'talking to him', which is a fat lot of good.

"This leaves me and my staff on tenterhooks to stop him coming into the shop. Obviously, he picks the busy times when he can nip in and out as quickly as possible before we can catch him."

And her final, tough question is as follows: "Do you have any clever suggestions?"

I did have two, the second of which I hadn't really thought through. First off, I suggested that, as her options appeared to be running out, then why not try to contain and control the situation? She must have some degree of wastage. Why not put it to the guy that he can come, on a regular, appointed basis, to collect a dole-out? He doesn't sound as if he gets off on the thrill of the chase or he wouldn't hand stolen goods back when confronted. Maybe he just really likes the goodies. So, damaged goods, or past their sell-by, whatever... if he can be made to understand that this is what he can have so long as he behaves himself, then it might work.

Then my duff idea. If it does work, I said to her, you might be able to turn this into a positive story for the local press - it would be unusual enough.

Pia replied: "Your suggestion is interesting, but the problem is that I don't really want to advertise freebies as I could end up with coachloads of tinkers, beggars and tramps turning up looking for handouts!"

Now I know that there are many of you contending with these whiffy unpleasantries. Has anyone come up with a workable solution? If so, please do get in touch. I can guarantee you 15 minutes of starring-role fame in the c-store world courtesy of this column if you have.

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