Nigel Dowdney’s Note Machine ATM was out of action at his store (Earlham Shopper, Swainsthorpe, Norwich) for three weeks in the run up to Christmas. He sent me an email saying: “I have had severe problems in the past couple of months with BT response times and repairs through companies that have to use BT to offer a service to their customers, eg Adept Telecom and Note Machine.”

He sent a very good letter to Note Machine on 1 December, chronicling the situation, pointing out the huge fall in commission, extra banking costs and loss of customers who go elsewhere to find an ATM. In it he concludes: “You are probably aware of the fragility of independent businesses at this point in time; this sort of shoddy service does nothing to improve our relationship with our customers, or to help our business generally. I look forward to hearing what action you intend to take.”

As of December 22, as this column is being written, he has had no reply. Note Machine has taken a ‘nothing we can do’ attitude, which may be so, but hardly good customer service. I think his appeal for compensation has fallen on deaf ears.

Nigel tells me: “It was down for 21 days completely due to BT. We lost nearly £300 in commission plus sales to customers who went elsewhere.

“When I politely enquired why it was taking so long, I was told they needed to get permission to dig up the road. This was not the case, all they had to do was lift a manhole cover! While fixing the problem the engineer took out the line for the credit card terminal. That was then off for two days!”

As I observed to Nigel, it’s always harder when dealing with a party once removed rather than with a direct supplier. Very often the two will point fingers at each other. In this case he knew it was BT but could not deal directly with them. I thought Nigel’s reply was worth sharing.

“It is interesting at a time when BT are trying to resist calls for ‘Openreach’ (a misnomer if ever there was one) to be removed from the BT fold and made a separate company. Is that going to help their autocratic attitude and improve service to those using their services, be that first hand or second hand? The same problem exists with the railways. Network Rail’s true responsibility for problems are vastly diminished because they are not ‘customer facing’!”