Why does stationery attract so many wheeler-dealers? These days they like to style themselves as ‘reprographics’. And we all just call them photocopier companies. (I have to add that, back in the Lanwall copier days I was tempted to call them photocrookiers. For those of you to whom this will mean nothing, thank goodness, you didn’t get caught. Hundreds of other readers will get the point.)

Want my advice? If you really want to offer a photocopy service, go and buy a machine.

I shopped for photocopier prices on Google and the first one to come up was an A4 mono print/scan/copy/fax machine for £215 ex-vat, free next day delivery. Compare that with paying something like five grand over five years.

That latter prospect is what Joga and Manjit Kalsi face after doing what turned out to be a rotten deal with Ezeecopy.

They trade as Essex Wines in Hornchurch in a reasonably well-off bit of town. “They knew trade would be quiet here,” says Manjit. “They knew what they were doing.”

What the contract stipulates is that the business will be charged a minimum 54 B&W photocopies per day at 5p per copy and 0.27 passport photos per day at £4.99 minus their 40% commission (which Ezeecopy points out is a special commission that isn’t offered to all customers trouble is, 40% of nothing is still nothing).

Joga had not read the contract carefully and the week that Manjit spoke to me she had done six photocopies and was being invoiced at about £80 per month.

At that rate what incentive does Ezeecopy have to end the deal early? The minute that machine went into the Kalsis’ store it became second hand, ie worth nothing.

I spoke to Paul Graves at Ezeecopy and more or less got nowhere. Could the couple end the contract? No, they had had their four months trial. What about an early settlement? How much? Would it be the number of years times the expected turnover, like the last time? (I had contacted him several months ago on a different case. He says the company has several different types of contract, so he was unable to tell me.)

The couple know this anyway because Joga’s brother had a machine installed at the same time and got a better deal for his far busier site in a less well-off area, where there was bound to be more demand.

Okay, here comes the sermon. Do not ever sign for a piece of equipment without reading the contract. I know they are long and indecipherable most of the time, but when you ask the rep the crucial questions (how long for and what if I need to quit?) get him to show you where it says ‘no problemo’ in the contract and then get him to initial it.

And don’t just take it from me look at www.photocopierexperts.co.uk for the pitfalls.