PUBLICANS HAVE complained bitterly about an awards scheme which costs more than £100 - and leaves them with little in return.
More than 70 pubs have been nominated for the 'Customer Excellence Awards' (CEA) according to the scheme's website, although only six are publicly listed.
Businesses are contacted by CEA over the phone and told they have been nominated for an award by their customers. They are told the scheme could boost their profits by up to 40 per cent and that they will be offered training to further enhance their business. This is when payment - in two installments of £59 - is asked for.
The scheme has prompted a warning from the BII about awards schemes which charge.
Lyn Warner, licensee of the Express Inn in Malvern, Worcestershire, said she felt that the over-the-phone training amounted to a "lecture" read out of a script. She added that it was difficult to understand as the person "could hardly speak English".
The Express Inn is one of six pubs named on the site as nominees. Of the four that The Publican managed to speak to, not one would recommend the scheme. Nominees variously received a certificate, posters, customer service software and over-the-phone training.
Derek McKenzie, licensee of the Cross Keys in Erith, Kent, said: "I thought it would be a good idea at the time but it didn't seem to do any good for us."
McKenzie added that as he didn't own a computer he couldn't download or use the software and he argued that the over-the-phone customer service training was "irrelevant" to his business.
Duncan Brown, licensee of the Springfield Hotel in Bradford, West Yorkshire, said: "I got a bit of paper saying I had been nominated and a piece of software I couldn't use."
CEA is sponsored by IvyOffice and Cashreflex, but both these businesses are registered at the same address as the awards in Sevenoaks, Kent.
Following inquires from The Publican, the website's homepage this week added a new message saying "Nominations for 2007 will close on October 9, 2007".
Speaking for the scheme, Lewis John - who described himself as a CEA selection committee member - said the £118 fee was "nominal" and said it was to cover the software, training and promotional materials.
John said he would respond to any other questions via email, but no response had been received at the time of going to press. Before he cut the call short he added: "All the awards schemes charge."
However, John McNamara, chief executive of the BII, fiercely disputed this. "If anyone asks a licensee for a fee they should be be very, very suspicious because all the awards I know of are completely free - in our awards we don't even restrict entries to BII members," he said.
"No-one in this industry should be nominated for an award and be asked to pay for the privilege."
He added that anyone not sure about an award's credentials should contact the BII.