Rama Varambhia has called the helpline to complain about a test purchase that took place at his shop, Snutch News in Leicester. At the time, the couple (Rama and her husband Subhash) were having coffee in their store with their local policewoman. A couple walked in, a guy hanging on the door and a woman buying a £1 scratch card.
Then they said “You failed a test purchase”. The woman was 21 years old. Rama said, “What is it for? He kept saying ‘you failed’ and I said no, I didn’t fail: she’s 21. Then I said, take the machine. I told her to leave but she wouldn’t. I said send me a letter and they said we will respond but they haven’t yet. The cop, who thought it was hilarious, challenged them by asking why did you send a 21-year-old? Rama also said that Camelot still mistakenly thought the company had a full terminal and kept calling with instructions on major games.
I put all of this to Camelot and they replied, “We train, educate and assess National Lottery retailers in a number of ways to protect against underage sales and help retailers sell National Lottery products only to 18 years and over. One of those ways is our mystery shopper program, which we’ve operated since 1999. It uses people aged 18 or older, but who look younger, to ensure retailers ask for ID on where applicable and do not sell to anyone under the age of 18. The reason we use mystery shoppers over the age of 18 is so that we do not inadvertently entice retailers into committing a criminal offence.
“If a retailer fails on a mystery shopper’s first visit, they receive a pack with supporting advice to help them through future mystery shops. We then visit or contact the retailer by phone to provide feedback on the failed visit and re-train staff on the National Lottery’s age-related purchasing guidelines. However, it should be noted that retailers who sell to mystery shoppers three times may have their terminal removed.
“In addition to the above, we are investigating whether the retailer is receiving the correct National Lottery game information from our retail team, and hope to correct any issues as soon as possible.”
But before this response, another division of Camelot wrote to the Varambhias accusing them of not cooperating. Their letter said: “A term of the retailer agreement you signed states that retailers must not act in a way that could harm or affect the public’s confidence in the safety or integrity of the National lottery.”
They added that due to the concerns raised, they would immediately suspend the couple.
They also said, “The security investigator was unable to remove the scratch card stock due to your lack of cooperation.”
This prompted a scathing letter from Subhash saying the review contained unsubstantiated lies. He specifies: “During the test visit, a WPC 6058 was present. When she questioned the probity of the test, Camelot walked.
He added: “The condition of our agreement that Camelot has signed commits to providing support and care above the minimum standard. Experience speaks otherwise. In our time, we have received three written apologies.
And finally he said, “We have unplugged the terminal and the unsold cards ready for your collection. TAKE NOTEour storage charge of £5 per day will be levied with immediate effect.
Then a few weeks later, I received the following from Subhash which he referred to as “Camelot Carry On”: “It has now been three weeks, despite threats from Camelot, nothing is happening. I threw the terminal and the unused cards in the yard. Exposes the integrity of Camelot.
Oh dear. I sent this to Camelot and received the following reply: “In relation to your request, I can confirm that we wrote to the retailer on February 24 to explain the suspension decision – and they were then given seven days to appeal the decision.As part of the ongoing process, we have since reviewed the case and any further correspondence from the retailer, and are due to contact them later this week.
“It should also be pointed out that when National Lottery equipment is damaged by unauthorized removal, this is charged to the retailer.”
That seems like a lesson or two. I don’t recommend breaking the rules of Camelot, no matter how stupid they may seem at the time. They have better lawyers.