Mason Metals has 50 years of proud history recycling in the metal bashing heartland of the Black Country. Based in Brierley Hill, Dudley, it has seen its fair share of changes to its industry. None however as pivotal as the proposed “cash ban” for payments in receipt of scrap metal.
Home secretary Theresa May claimed many cash in hand transactions take place without any form of documentation or audit trail. But there are already regulations in place that reputable firms follow and it is unfair that we are all being tarred with the same brush.
We have always taken the customer’s details down on the Waste Transfer Note/Duty of Care. This includes the customer’s name, address, vehicle registration, the date, the time, material delivered, price paid and total due. These details are the core of the 1964 Scrap Metal Dealers act and are held on file in case the relevant authorities wish to see them - this is a pretty robust audit trail.
Yet metal thefts continue to hit the headlines– both national and local – and politicians seem determined to introduce a cashless system and it appears they will get their way.
But the because of all this publicity, customers began to come to Mason Metals Brierley Hill and Halesowen depots with photo ID. Managing director Andy Jones had been keen, for sometime, to create a membership scheme for his customers and seized on the opportunity to introduce its Anti Metal Theft Membership Scheme.
“We were looking to protect the business and with customer’s volunteering their ID we were able to take this gesture and formalise it. It fell exactly into line with calls from local MPS and the previously issued revised BMRA (British Metals Recycling Association) code of conduct.
“We can capitalise on our customers’ faith in us. It says a lot about our standing - despite the trade’s current adverse publicity.”
Membership is primarily aimed at returning customers. They are given a questionnaire explaining the reasons behind the new system and after completing a questionnaire and providing photo ID, a membership card and number is issued.
Upon returning to site to recycle their scrap metal the customer hands over the card to the buyer – the reverse of the card has the customer’s name, address and signature. This makes for quick completion of the Waste Transfer note and allows a signature double check.
“It’s no Tesco Clubcard but hopefully it will foster a form of customer loyalty,” says Jones. “They know the reasoning behind the card and they are making a statement too – ‘you’re doing it right, we appreciate that and have got nothing to hide; let’s do business’. We were initially worried about uptake but we’re almost at the 200 mark - which is fantastic”.
“Our buyers were sceptical but now it’s quicker and easier to process a member’s transaction than a non member. It’s also fostering a community feeling as we’re both (customer and business) working together for a common aim – initially to prove the transaction was correct and now to the ends that it’s quicker and more convenient for both parties”.
Mason Metals is annoyed that it, along with other reputable companies, is being lumped in by the press and politicians with competitors that open up out of thin air, ignoring legislation and with little industry expertise. “We employ 25 local people and two apprentices, and we paid £2 million pounds in direct and indirect taxes last year but in the eyes of the press and some MPs we are the same as a rag and bone man,” says Jones.
On a recent Monday morning of the 100 plus transactions some 64% were under £100. The company fears a black market if new laws do not stamp out illegal yards and traders and hope the proposed changes will not discourage the small business and house holder from recycling with them.
“It appears a cash ban is inevitable so our membership scheme will really help us,” says Jones. “We know who are regulars are, and we can communicate with them about any changes. If necessary we can pay them electronically. It will mean they are in and out of our premises in no time at all – and convenience is king. We may all even grow to prefer it!?”
Neil Woodall is Mason Metals commercial manager