Busy queue, oopsy slip of the finger and there goes 70 quid. Jayanti Parmar’s wife (at their Curzon Superstore in Ashton under Lyne) meant to key in a £10 utilities top-up and pressed £80 by mistake.

She immediately rang Payzone, while the customer was still in the store, to explain what had happened, but was told that the transaction could not be reversed. (To be fair, Payzone does have a three-step prompt system: key in, confirm and have you got payment? But like I said, teeming store and no doubt the retailer just kept pushing the keys to hurry it through.)

The customer, a woman who lives in the neighbourhood but who only ever does top-ups in the shop, agreed to come back and pay it off in weekly instalments.

This happened on January 8 and they haven’t seen her since. “We have written the odd £10 off in the past,” says Jayanti, “but this is too much.”
We didn’t work out how many transactions the couple would have to do in order to make up the loss. Too depressing - and it makes retailers resent even offering the service. But after a rummage through my ‘newspaper’ file I was able to come up with a solution.

Just as many newsagents offering home news delivery will have done, when the bill gets too big you take your non-paying customers to small claims court.

All you need is proof and the customer’s full name, address and postcode. I advised Jayanti to write a firm letter to the customer, giving her seven days to start the instalments (or pay in full) or she will hear from the court and, as he has proof (kept the ticket), she will also be liable for the £30 court costs plus statutory interest for the period that the money owed is outstanding.

All he has to do if she doesn’t cough up after this warning is to go to any county court clerk for a County Court Summons (form N1). Or he can do it all online.