It isn't all that often that someone leaves a message on my answering machine that goes: "I've got some excellent news."

Not only that, the man runs a post office! Roger Dicker, who trades as Kentford Village Stores near Newmarket, Suffolk, had been getting his electricity supplied by Npower. "They screwed me because I missed the cancellation date by about a week and got stuck with them for another year."

So far this news doesn't sound all that excellent. But it gets better.

"I managed to get the bill reduced a bit by pleading poverty. Then I switched to British Gas. Their first offer was fantastic much lower than anyone else's. And with a mere hint of hesitation on my part, they threw in a £100 voucher and will be holding these prices for two years."

He reckons he has saved himself hundreds and adds that, although British Gas gives notice of renewal dates, unlike Npower, the best advice is to hand in your notice when you first sign on (as advised by Convenience Store). Energy suppliers only give good deals to new customers so you should contrive to be a new customer every time, even if you wind up staying with the same supplier.

It does mean shopping around and I reckon Roger is right when he says: "Be nice, be polite, be honest."

I expect a lot of call centre- types are used to getting abuse, which is why the British Gas man was more than pleasant to Roger.

Encouraged by the deal he got, Roger then turned his attention to his insurance policy. "I asked for a like-for-like quote. I spoke to about four companies, no bucket shops, although one was too cheap to trust. It's not all about price."

The shopping around took about half-an-hour and he saved himself a few more hundred pounds.