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Bounce back

by Latoya Burnham

With cheque fraud no stranger to gas stations, especially during the Yuletide season, one manager today hailed the introduction of an RBC Esso gas credit card as perhaps a blessing for the nine branches around the island.

Carlton Proute of the Oistins Esso station told reporters at a briefing this morning at RBC’s Lower Broad Street branch, that he had a 21-page list of names of persons his branch should not accept cheque from because of problems in the past.

He noted that with the new RBC Esso Fleet Gas Card, it could lessen headaches for managers like him.

“I currently have a list of persons from whom we do not take cheques and that is an A to Z, and it is 21 pages of regular A4-size, typed – 21 pages A to Z and I am adding to it. So the problem is not now from whom I don’t take cheques, because it is so long and it takes so much time to search through, that I have started to consider from whom I do take cheques because that would probably narrow it down to one page,” he said.

This morning the bank and Esso CEO, Cally Boyea, launched a new gas card that can be used like a credit card at all Esso branches to purchase gas or products from the attached convenient stores.

Market Head of Personal Banking, Horace Cobham, said in addition to working like a credit card he expected it would remove some of the risk undertaken by service stations.

“I think the great thing for the service station operators, to the extent that they still do it, is that this replaces the credit that they typically would provide their clients. So therefore effectively, this removes the risk from them … that credit goes straight into the bank.”

Boyea had said that he too believed the card could be useful in a number of ways, including reducing the amount of cash gas attendants and gas stations would have on hand.

“Another benefit of this card is that it provides the opportunity for our service station operators to reduce the amount of cash. We all know criminals or culprits, thieves are attracted to cash and this is an opportunity to help us, with the enhanced use of this card, with the frequent use of this card, is going to help us reduce the amount of cash at service stations and hopefully eliminate the temptation for armed robbery at our service stations,” said Boyea.

ID challenge

Proute also noted that there was a challenge in getting customers to present ID cards for their non-cash transactions, stating: “We are having horrendous problems getting people to show us their Barbados ID card or any other form of picture ID and it produces delays, it produces confrontations; and even when you say to them, but you do present your card at the bank or wherever, for some strange reason people believe that if you present your card at the bank, such presentation is much safer than if you present at a gas station, because at gas stations we [steal] …

“So this [card] will give us the opportunity to certainly reduce the use of cheques, but at this time I would also like to suggest that in our literature or expos? that somehow we try to convince people that the presentation of a picture ID is a valid part of today’s business. The police have said so and we know it is sensible.”

He said with the amount of credit card and other paper fraud taking place, it was wise to have additional forms of identification, but customers did not want to comply.

Proute acknowledge that there were at times “significant discrepancies in the handling of cash at gas stations”, adding that the paperwork generated by these non-cash, credit transactions may not necessarily stop it, but could in fact add to it.

“So this will not significantly impact on that opportunity but any type of reduction in actual cash is a benefit to us on the ground,” he maintained.

Esso is the second gas distributor to introduce a gas card. Shell also has one for corporate customers.

President of the Petroleum Dealers Association, Livy Carter said if the cards are used as intended, it could present an avenue for stations to lessen their cash on hand.

“I agree,” he said when told about Esso officials remarks in relation to the potential to reduce robberies due to less cash. “The fact is that the attendants will have less cash and that can reduce the risk they face… From a safety standpoint, yes, it can help,” said Carter.

He noted though that there have not been reports of robberies for the Christmas period, and as far as cheque fraud was concerned, he said he would have to check with his members on that. As for the Shell stations he operates, Carter said he had his own “pre-approved” cheque system to guard against this.

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