A high percentage of my complaints come from retailers dealing with problems that arise from subjects other than food. Messrs Heinz, Kellogg's, Walkers et al are seemingly getting it right.
It's the equipment and the services that appear to be problematic. Suppliers of chillers rate high on the complaints monitor, as do utilities payment companies. All news wholesalers are right up there, too, along with energy suppliers.
So, thus, back to PayPoint. It's the market leader and therefore gets the most complaints. This story shows how little things mean a lot.
Aniel Chopra, of Chopra News in Birmingham, writes: "I have been a happy (and busy) PayPoint agent for years without any problems."
Then he got one.
"I swiped a customer's 'Allpay.net' rent payment card through the machine, entered the amount (£10) and hit 'enter' twice - as is the procedure. The screen displayed the message 'please wait' - so we did...for five minutes. Then the customer was getting anxious, I had a queue of people so I unplugged the machine at the mains, waited a few seconds and then restarted it. Five minutes later it prints out a receipt saying "amount 10.00 recovered". Recovered? In this context, what does that mean? So I looked in the PayPoint handbook and found no mention of this.
"The customer at this point was livid. I decided that there was no way that I was going to risk giving the customer this receipt for a transaction that may not even have processed successfully, so I swiped the card again and this time things went smoothly. (The idea being that the customer is not kept waiting any longer, the people in the now-sizeable queue can be served and I can always phone the PayPoint retailer helpline to clarify things later. Or so I thought.)
"I phoned the helpline only to wait 10 minutes (at 10p per minute) to eventually leave a message on their answering machine."
Someone from PayPoint did ring him back about an hour later and he explained the problem. She said that someone else would call to cancel the transaction.
But when the call came he was told: "Sorry, you have exceeded the number of claims for this year."
"Apparently, because I have reversed four (yes, four out of approx 4,800 transactions) since July 20, 2007, I am not allowed a refund. I do not recall any details of this in the contract that I read thoroughly and signed with PayPoint. Surely if this is a new clause in the agreement, I would have had to have received at least a few weeks' notice of this. Do you know of anything like this?"
It was at this point that the blame game kicked in. The call centre staff told him that it's not PayPoint, it's the client (ie Allpay.net) that requested this rule.
"Apparently, I cannot request help with the refund of any transactions until one year has passed since the date of the first refund (July 20, 2007 to July 20, 2008). Why else would I ever want or need to phone them? Effectively, they are expecting me to continue running the service without any meaningful retailer support. Surely they are in breach of contract?"
Aniel adds that he was told that he was lucky it was only £10 and not the maximum £150 that could have been paid by the customer.
"For me, it is not about £10," he concludes. "I have promoted PayPoint to my customers old and new, handed out leaflets telling people about their service and let them get away with imposing 'caps' on my commission. But I feel totally betrayed by a company that feels it can make up the rules as it goes along and has seemingly grown too big to care about the retailers who have made it what it is today.
"I have since told them that I regretfully see no reason why I would want to risk offering the service in my store anymore."