Fiction with an edge

Sunday, 21 October 2012

STARBUCKS - grounds for avoidance?

I have enjoyed a Starbucks coffee in Singapore, in cities in the US and here the UK. I even wrote to the company when Drake Circus (mall) was being built in Plymouth and suggested that the company ought to consider opening a shop there. Their response that Plymouth was not on their agenda disappointed me, but, a couple of years later, when Drake Circus was finished they had changed their mind and, now, Plymouth has two Starbucks cafes. I used to tell friends to drink there - that the mocha was good. I suppose you could say I was a Starbucks man.

So, maybe you can imagine my embarrassment and anger when I read that in its 14 years in the UK, on sales of £3 billion, Starbucks has paid Corporation Tax to the tune of just £8.6 million up until three years ago - and, during that last three years, nothing. Apparently, it is not Tax evasion as that would be illegal. It is Tax avoidance - and whilst that, sadly, is legal, in this day and age of austerity when the average man and woman is being squeezed until the pips squeak to repay the Government's deficit, I believe it's morally repugnant. That average man and woman has no choice about whether or not he or she  pays tax - it is a burden that is visited upon them in the same certain way as old age. However, we should remember that the more companies like Starbucks avoid paying tax, the more that average man and woman have to make up their shortfall. I am not naive enough to think that Starbucks is the only company to have tax accountants expert in the field of tax avoidance - which is why I believe that those companies who don't pay their share should be identified - as they are effectively thumbing their noses at us, their customers. Once we know who they are, then we can decide whether we want to give them our business (our cash) or whether we want to give it to a company who is contributing to the British economy (like Costa coffee) - because those companies help to reduce our tax burden.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

It's worth persevering folks!

Check this out: 

In 2007 I complained to the Advertising Standards Agency and Press Complaints Commission about a company called Churchcastle and its wordsearch competitions in the Daily Mirror (and other newspapers / magazines). I felt these competitions were fleecing the public, by getting them to use premium rate phone lines to claim their (cheap) jewellery prizes and give away their private details (to be sold on to whoever?). As one would expect the PCC didn't want to know and the ASA said I was the only one complaining about it and they didn't want to take up the complaint. I kept at it and finally, last year, the ASA did take on the case. Today I see in the Daily Mirror (Penman & Sommerlad Investigate pages 24/25 - see above link) that Churchcastle has been fined £800,000. So, folks, it's worth persevering when you see injustice. It's a pity the newspapers, who obviously put advertising revenue above the protection of their readers, don't have to apologise to those readers for allowing the competition onto their pages. In additon, those newspapers / magazines who carried the competition, in my view, were complicit in this and should compensate their readers - mostly elderly I gather, who were scammed.

Interestingly I wrote this on my previous blog 'I really should be writing' back on Oct 20th 2008:
Churchcastle Ltd (trading as Spencer and Mayfair 2007) have a full page advert in today's copy of the Daily Mirror (page 47) suggesting that people can solve a word puzzle and 'claim' a 'stunning emerald pendant' - however, what it places in print (around font size 6, I guess) at the bottom of the page is that the call to claim one's stunning emerald pendent lasts 3 minutes and 30 seconds (at £1.50 per minute on BT landline - god knows what it would be from a mobile) at the end of that call you will be asked if you wish to transfer to another phone line to receive a 'matching bracelet' - if one does that then the call will last 3minutes (again at £1.50 per minute). So, 6mins 30 secs at £1.50 per min = £9.75! Well at least Churchcastle have dropped the heading of 'Do you qualify for a genuine emerald pendant', which they used in two previous adverts for the same thing last year. Some interesting links - I'm assuming here that the Churchcastle Ltd mentioned is the Churchcastle Ltd of the above - fair assumption?ASA Non-broadcast Adjudication: Churchcastle Ltd t/a UK Cash Rewards The Office of Fair Trading: Prize promoter gives undertakings to High Court This is a really interesting link - it was actually published in the Daily Mirror in 2002 They cash in on trash - Investigations  Maybe the Daily Mirror doesn't look at its back copies.