Tango Ice Blast 3

Retailers have hit out at supplier Frozen Brothers for its lack of support for drinks machines that have broken down.

Several retailers contacted Convenience Store to complain about the poor service, with some store owners estimating the machines are out of operation for as much as half of the time they’ve had it.

Frozen Brothers is the exclusive provider of Tango Ice Blast, Coca-Cola Frozen, Fanta Frozen & Slushy Jacks machines in the UK and supplies to hospitality and retail outlets.

Londis retailer Nishi Patel says he is fed up with the poor support service.

“I would say over the period we have had the machine, it’s been working maybe 40% or 50% of the time,” he explained. “I contact them [Frozen Brothers] over the phone and by email every time the machine has issues. The last period of down time was due to a burnt-out motor, and that was a three-month slog of phone calls and emails. I must have a chain of 20+ emails. All I get is an auto answer from Frozen Brothers - never any help and over an hour waiting time to be told they can’t help or I need to speak to someone else. Customer care is just shocking and hasn’t got any better.”

He said that when the machine is working, the product sells very well which makes it worse when it’s not working.

“We lose a lot of trade in store and on deliveries - at the height of summer we could be losing £700-£1,000.”

Nishi added that even when an engineer is organised by Frozen Brothers, things are going wrong.

“The last issue I had, I received an email cancelling the appointment saying that the engineer is delayed and can’t come, I got this email every two to three weeks between the end of February and May. I had to really escalate the issue before any one was called to come to the shop.”

Adam Hogwood of Budgens Broadstairs in Kent said there’s no relationship between the supplier and the retailers. “They [Frozen Brothers] have a product that’s a winner in stores but they don’t support retailers.”

Adam also has issues with getting to speak to representatives from the business. “We’ll call and be put on hold, and the battery on the phone has died before we can speak to someone,” he said. “And when you do speak to someone, it’s a drawn-out process that takes two to three days for them to even reply to an email.”

He estimates that the machine at Budgens Broadstairs has been out of action for five months out of the 18 months it’s been at the store. “Our most recent problem took it out of action for three months and every day it’s not working, we’re losing money on it.

“I dread to think what will happen if it breaks during the summer months as the pressure on their engineering team will be even worse and the amount of money being lost by retailers will be even higher.”

Another retailer, who wished to remain anonymous said they had the Tango Ice Blast machine installed at their store in 2021 as part of a three-year contract that was paid for upfront.

While they rated the product, they’ve had major issues with service, particularly when the machine is broken – which they have worked out has almost a third of the time they’ve had it.

“I know these things take time and if it was two or three days, I would understand but it can be up six weeks before an engineer comes out, and that’s six weeks of lost sales.”

They added that if you ring and ask for accounts payable or are looking for a new machine, they get in touch immediately and it’s only when something is wrong you can’t get hold of anyone. “It takes 40 minutes to get customer services on the line.”

With the three-year lease up in 2024, they are considering demanding that the lease be extended for the amount of time the machine has been out of action. “The machine has been idle for six to eight months in my store while I wait for them to fix it.”

Nishi is also considering what he can do. “I don’t have too many options other then trade the machine till it goes back and see what’s in the market at the time or see if Frozen Brothers can’t sort themselves out and offer us a better deal.

“I would like them to be responsible for the mess they are in and put us in, we paid a lot for a machine that can do well in our store but out or order signs on the machine doesn’t help us and is wasting valuable hope floor space.”

Frozen Brothers has not responded to repeated requests from Convenience Store for comment on the issue. To assess the amount of time it takes to speak to a representative, we also rang Frozen Brothers and spent more than an hour on hold before being disconnected.