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Beer Box owner grateful for public support after unexpected bill and ‘bullying’ leads to grim 24 hours

Posted on - 13th February, 2024 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Bamber Bridge, Business, Preston News, Pubs, South Ribble News
Beer Box in Bamber Bridge
Beer Box in Bamber Bridge

A Bamber Bridge micropub owner is breathing a sigh of relief after the distress and shock of a business-threatening four-figure bill landing with little notice.

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Mark Bentham, who has been the sole owner of Beer Box on Station Road since 2022, was anticipating a normal Friday when he was informed his business allegedly owed £4,200 that he wasn’t aware of. In addition to that, he was told if he didn’t pay the same day, that money would increase an eyewatering amount each day thereafter.

Blacks Business Brokers, of Bury, was instructed in 2022 to sell the Beer Box business as a whole with Bentham and partner Mark Murphy looking to move on. Ultimately, this wouldn’t happen, and Bentham bought out Murphy and continued operating the business.

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However, Blacks realised in 2024 that under the terms of the agreement that had been signed, the business had technically been sold and therefore they were owed the money – despite not actually being successful in finding a buyer for the business at the time.

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Mark was told on Friday (February 9) morning that he had to pay by 1pm or Blacks would issue an invoice upon which they would add 8% each day that the invoice was not paid. He feared this would mean the end of Beer Box. This would mean £280 being added each day, so within a week the total amount owed would’ve increased to over £6,000. Blacks Business Brokers categorically denies that this was them issuing a threat.

The email Mark received

Mark told Blog Preston: “It felt a little bit mean-spirited to be honest, even asking for the money. They didn’t find a buyer for our business. But once I got over the shock of the situation, I asked if I could have 28 days to take advice and think about how I was going to pay it. They said no.

“To ask for money that you owe someone is fair enough – but this felt like bullying. The threat of an invoice being issued which would just go up, that was clearly trying to scare me into paying.”

Mark posted the predicament onto Facebook, at which point Blog Preston began a conversation with both Beer Box and Blacks Business Brokers.

Around half a dozen emails were exchanged in which the person at the business handling the case told Blog Preston: “I can confirm that I most certainly did not threaten the client with late payment charges. I merely made him aware that we are unable to come to an agreement on what would be due. We will be left with the option but to raise the invoice and fees would be due under the agreement that was signed.

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“While our company aims to assist smaller businesses, if clients attempt to avoid paying our fees, we are left with no option but to raise an invoice after trying to resolve amicably.”

Blog Preston then asked how telling a business owner he has hours to make a significant payment before late fees were charged was assisting a small business, and if Blacks was comfortable taking the payment at all given the length of time that had passed and that Blacks had not found an external buyer as was initially intended.

At this point, the issue was escalated and Blog Preston was contacted by the head of credit control for Blacks Business Brokers.

He told Blog Preston: “Upon learning of the potential impact on Mark’s business, we have made the decision to withdraw any outstanding amounts owed by Beer Box to Blacks. Our company prides itself on its reputation for being supportive of businesses, and we are committed to assisting in their success rather than witnessing their closure.

“Regarding your inquiry about our client communication practices, yes, we do employ [the individual] and others who contact clients before invoicing to explore resolution options, particularly if significant late payment charges are anticipated. This approach is not intended to distress clients but rather to seek a mutually beneficial resolution and understand their circumstances.

“Please convey our sincere apologies to Mark for any misunderstanding or distress caused by the late notification of the outstanding charge. We appreciate your diligence in seeking clarification on this matter, and we assure you that we will take swift action to rectify the situation. I will personally email Mark to confirm our decision to withdraw any fees due, as we do not want to contribute to any further hardship or stress on him or his business.”

Mark told Blog Preston: “The initial emails, which I’ve shared on Facebook anyway, looked like a scam. I couldn’t believe that’s how they were behaving. It’s good that they’ve seen a bit of sense but how many people would have just quietly paid?

“To not hear anything at all for 18 months then suddenly get lumbered with that was really upsetting. They need to rethink how they behave more generally, not just back down when the issue looks like it’s been made public.

“The main thing I’ve learned here is the importance of sharing your problems and asking for help. If I hadn’t posted on Facebook, I wouldn’t have had so many people get in touch offering either to help or just kind words. It got me through Friday, which was one of the most stressful of my life. Not for the first time, thank you so much to my customers.”

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