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BBC Matthew Allwright Rogue Traders and Blessin...


QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES?

The famous question posed in Satire VI of the Sixteen Satires of the Roman poet, Juvenal… is as pertinent today as it was when first published almost two millennia ago at the end of the first or beginning of the second Century AD. It asks: “Who keeps watch over the watchmen?” or “who will protect us from the protectors?”

The essential question (not the quote above) is rooted even further back in Plato’s Republic, a Socratic dialogue dating back to almost 400BC. So I’m clearly not the first person to be hounded by one or more of society’s so-called watch-dogs.

The fact is that – like the disadvantaged throughout history – we rejoice at the prospect of a dragon-slayer to right the wrongs suffered by ‘the little man (or woman)’. Very few of us want to risk exploding the myth (as it all-too-often is) by asking Juvenal’s immortal question. Too many of our hopes are too deeply grounded in a perpetuation of the myth.

The problem arises from the inevitable, corrupting influence of power upon those men, women (and even, by biblical accounts, upon certain immoral angels) who wield it. The eminent English historian Lord Acton (1834-1902), is generally paraphrased as concluding that “all power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

We see this in the common playground bully who is usually ‘strong with the weak… and weak with the strong!’

Yes – like any new-born – my baby, DeluxeHire, was weak and vulnerable at first. The early years were a steep learning curve… but we learned and we survived and we grew older and wiser and we tried to do right by those who we were called to serve. And on the few but real occasions when we didn’t or couldn’t do so, we have sought to make it up to every one of them without whinging.

In this article, I want to address the assault of one of these so-called Rogue Trader dragon-slayers, the respected BBC’s Matthew Allwright on my business. By the end of this piece we believe that that worthy gentleman certainly belies his very name. He is not only not “All‑ Right” but he is not even “Mostly‑Right”… and, for a would-be super-hero, he is mostly “All‑Wrong”… which is what I’ll call him from here on (as I refuse to grant him the oxygen of publicity in what I have come to experience as his sloppy and nefarious activity).

We won’t go soft on ourselves, either. Where we were naïve, where we were impulsive, where we were foolishly trustful of people who wouldn’t have fooled more sceptical and experienced business people we are open and straightforward about it. A well-known business guru, whose name I can’t remember, once attributed the reason for his success to “good decisions”. When asked how he learned to make “good decisions”, he answered simply: “Bad decisions”! Hopefully we will be able to put our past bad decisions to work for you by making educated, good decisions in the future.

The trouble with wheeling out historical sob stories, is that they sound like a victim whingeing for sympathy; the trouble with not telling it like it is, is that it sounds like a cover-up. (Also it lets Mr Mostly-Wrong off the hook to victimize someone else – without accountability – in future). I’ll give you both. You choose what you want to read.

DeluxeHire, like many businesses, started as a brilliant concept with zero cash-flow. Our business is space-hungry so we committed our meagre resources to renting flexible space.

DeluxeHire was founded in 2007 and our first storage space was a 50ft2 self- storage unit at Big Yellow in Hanger Lane, West London.  As the business grew, we expanded into Access Self-storage on the same lane. Then we rented a warehouse at Bizspace Business Centre, Perivale at 4-6 Wadsworth Road – and remained there for nearly 3 years but, in 2012, due to orders from subcontractors for the 2012 Olympic Games and other events happening around London at that time, we got busy and sought bigger premises to expand our business. We also had storage facilities in North Acton and Greenford in addition to our existing sites simply because they were affordable deals. Please note that ALL our storage facilities have been located only in WEST LONDON and in close proximity to each other.

Mr. Mostly-Wrong’s suggestion that I shift my business around lock-ups all over London is therefore deliberately misleading. Even his choice of the word “lock-up” is calculated to mislead. The so called "lock-ups" Matthew Mostly-Wrong cleverly refers to were not the ‘holes-in-the-wall’ that the term conjures up but actually very large warehouses: e.g. 2,500 ft2in Access Self-storage, Hayes; and 3,000 ft2 in SafeStore, Stains and large warehouse in Slough.  None of these quite fits the description of your average lock-up does it?

I am not convinced that Matthew Mostly-Wrong, himself, even seriously believes that we are “rogue traders” (his stock-in-trade). If he does, then I feel he is deeply deluded and to be seriously pitied… or someone who should not only be very sceptically listened to but himself investigated by some fearless consumer reporter. As we’ve just seen he certainly knows how to subtly pick his words to get his chosen message across! What’s particularly frightening is that he speaks for the venerable BBC and has the ability to reach and influence millions of viewers as a genuine super-hero "Rogue Traders Terminator".

Matthew is an entertainer and does what he does best. The trouble with earning your crust as a public dragon-slayer, however, is that one needs a steady supply of dragons (in his case “rogue traders”) to slay. Whether such dragons be real or imagined! (Do I hear someone say: “What about the vetting of the BBC?” My answer is “Beware of creating an institutional demi-god: ever hear of a man called Jimmy Saville?)

Matthew’s need for serial success stories (real or imagined) to feed the dragon-slayer myth has to be filled BBC-episode-after-BBC-episode!

Nevertheless, we had our fair share of problems with self-storage houses and would only recommend using a select few. Very useful as a stop-gap measure to cope with extraordinary spike in business… like we faced with the Olympic Games. It was a quick-fix that exposed us to a several accusations, a number of which had a modicum of veracity – including a score which resulted in CCJs… all of which we are well on our way to discharging – but we refused to go insolvent or to close down and re-start under a new name. We have since refunded 95% of all clients who responded to our invitation for settlement and are comitted to repaying the rest as they arise. 

Matthew was clever to focus on our mistake. Unfortunately it was too normal and banal so he had to “sex it up a bit” to quote one of the members of Tony Blair’s government in regard to a dossier that helped them to successfully sell a war to our nation under false premises.

Obviously, given the paucity of on-going genuine complaints, Mr Mostly-Wrong and his programmers set up a three ‘sting’ operations featuring three stooge-actors, Ruth, James and Suzanne, to try to ‘catch us out’. These actors tried to be as difficult-to-please as possible; and we tried to be as accommodating as possible. In the end, having made accommodation impossible, Suzanne and James were refunded by DeluxeHire their deposits and other charges and Ruth was reimbursed every penny she spent – even when she was in clear contravention of our clearly-stated, ultra-reasonable terms and conditions – as set-out in writing on our website. You won’t find that on his hit-piece!

That’s enough. This sad muck-raker couldn’t even manufacture enough muck to rake together in order to kill a good idea so he failed in his bid to terminate DeluxeHire, something which, I guess, will be an ongoing source of challenge and an embarrassment to him.

Our thanks for that go out to

  • our loyal customers,
  • our reliable suppliers who stuck with us and – above all –
  • our God, whose abounding grace vindicates his children and lifts them out of disgrace.

The really, really, really, short version of the above is:

  1. we have made our mistakes,
  2. we learned from them; and we refused to run away from them,
  3. we plan to ensure that every customer who has ever dealt with us – past or present – is fairly treated, and
  4. we are determined to continue to serve our customers wisely and ethically going forward.

Since we began with the Latin sages, let us end with the first principle of Justice:

Audi alteram partem – hear the other side!

We thank you for fairly considering our side of the story.

 

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Happy to count BBC Television as one of our customers. Chair hire for BBC television drama 2016.

Collected from our warehouse and returned. The BBC is a big place!

 

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