Despite cutting back severely on the number of brokers that I was supplying, the even
higher discounts that I was given by Steve Wilson at Renault meant that business continued
to boom. And as a result, Renault increased
the discounts yet again, and business boomed even more.
It was almost like the physicist’s dream of a perpetual motion machine, something
which powered itself. Get discounts,
sell cars, get more discounts, sell more cars, get even more discounts and sell even
more cars. And so it went on.
Renault happy, Renault Croydon happy, my brokers happy, their
customers happy, me happy. But then one
day something seemingly innocent happened which set off a chain of events that would
bring my perpetual motion machine and its resulting happiness to a catastrophic dead
stop. For everyone.
I was contacted by Colin Sambrook, Head of Resources at BALPA, who asked me to supply
a company car for one of their employees. I
had already pursuaded BALPA to take 3 Renaults as company cars, but one particular
employee insisted on choosing a Ford Focus. Colin
Sambrook asked if I could source a good deal on a Ford Focus for BALPA and, quite
by chance, I had just recently been contacted by another broker with an offer on new
Fords, so I said that I would order the car for Colin.
Now this broker went by the name of Sam Parmer, but his real name was Sanjay Chadha. Why
the Anglicised trading name? Well, Sanj
had apparently been on the end of some unpleasant racial remarks when he started in
the car broking business, so he used the name of Sam Parmer to avoid any problems
when dealing with other brokers.
Now working as a car broker on the end of a telephone, no one would ever know that
Sanj Chadha wasn’t an Anglicised ‘Sam Parmer’ and, as long as he delivered on any
deals I placed with him, I certainly wasn’t bothered at all by Sanj’s use of a trading
name, in fact the practice wasn’t uncommon at all in the motor industry.
So I ordered the Ford through Sanj and in due course it was delivered, on time and
to the customer’s specification. All
well and good, and having benefited from Sanj’s arrangements, in return I gave him
a user ID and password to access the private web site that I had set up to provide
car pricing information to the much smaller group of brokers to whom I was now supplying
ever more cars.
Big mistake. Little did I know the trouble
that this would cause. And it didn’t
take very long.
I received a call from Steve Wilson at Renault asking to meet me to discuss the BALPA account
and I just assumed that we would be going through the usual meeting ritual of him
congratulating me on the number of vehicle sales, asking about the web site security
and then offering more discounts.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. We agreed
to meet at Renault Croydon with Toby Johnstone and when I arrived there I was totally
unprepared for what happened next.
Instead of the usual backslapping exercise Steve Wilson asked me straightaway about
the web site through which I was selling cars to brokers. Steve
said that a colleague of his had visited the site and that the Renault prices were
suspiciously like those offered through the BALPA account, give or take a bit of commission.
‘Well of course they are.’ I thought ‘You know that anyway.’ I
looked at Toby Johnstone, who’s eyebrows went North at light speed as he gave me back
a ‘What?’ kind of look and an upwards shrug of the shoulders, but he kept quiet.
Steve said that, because of this, all future sales of vehicles under the BALPA account,
including any vehicles already ordered, would need to be validated by a copy of a
BALPA membership card for the purchaser and that Toby would be administering this.
Phew. We all knew what this meant. Nothing. No
way was Toby Johnstone going to kill the golden goose. So
I just sat back and took a lecture from Steve Wilson on the need to ensure that access
to the BALPA web site was secure and then the meeting ended.
When Steve left, Toby just looked at me.
I asked ‘Did you know about this? Have
I done something to upset someone?’
‘Nah mate’ replied Toby ‘I didn’t have a clue that Steve was going to do that, but
the shit has hit the fan over another account and you have probably been plastered
by the fallout of smelly stuff. Look
Toby pointed to his computer screen and scrolled down row after row of vehicle orders.
‘These are suspended orders for an account that Pam Hillman manages. Someone
was buying the cars and taking them up North to a compound, then putting them up for
sale on a forecourt along the road from the local Renault dealer, undercutting them. Renault
has photos of the cars in the compound, on the forecourt and all sorts. I
think you’ve been caught in the cross fire, ‘cos when Pam was challenged about it
she lobbed in a complaint about what Renault Birmingham are up to these days and Renault
Birmingham retaliated with a complaint about you. Someone
must have tipped them off. I thought
it would all just blow over though.’
‘But why would Renault Birmingham complain about me?’ I asked.
‘Dunno mate’ said Toby.
‘So, what do we do next?’