Josie Chamberlin rang to ask if I had ever come across anything like this before? I hadn’t.

The background: she had a Jack’s Beans coffee bar from Smiths News installed in her store, a Costcutter in Codicote, Herts, last summer. This spring the machine went out of action and there followed a trail of urgent emails from the store, asking when it would be repaired (while still being charged £50 a week). Then Smiths News responded: “We have had the manufacturers review the condition of the machine and, unfortunately the damage caused by rodents is unrepairable.”

According to Smiths, a mouse had got into the machine and nibbled through the wires.

Josie, however, said that she has a contract with Rentokil, which pointed out that the coffee machine is a sealed unit; so how could a mouse get inside the machine, unless it was there from the start? Surely, if it could get in or out, it would have eaten that sealed muffin just two inches away from the coffee machine? The store had a clean bill of health from pest control.

Smiths News said it would be billing the store the cost of the machine (£3,466 plus VAT) plus a removal fee of £1,000, plus a termination charge calculated as the rest of the rental for the three-year term yet to be paid (£4,410). About £10K all told.

I asked Smiths News for a comment, but they said they couldn’t while it was ongoing. It’s been ongoing for an awful long time now. Complete stalemate. Anyone else come across anything similar?