Independent retailers have claimed slush operator Frozen Brothers left them with broken machines for “months on end” after engineers repeatedly failed to turn up.
The firm is responsible for supplying Tango Ice Blast and Coca-Cola Frozen to convenience. However, several retailers branded the customer service “atrocious” last week after experiencing multiple breakdowns.
Jimmy Patel, owner of Jimmy’s Store in Northampton, told betterRetailing his Tango Ice Blast machine had been out of order for two months.
“It keeps leaking gas,” he said. “They came out three times in December to repair it, but when they left, the same issue kept happening. I had to leave it switched off, which cost me hundreds of pounds in sales, and only now has somebody finally come out.”
Patel also experienced multiple challenges in actually reporting the issue to the firm, claiming to be kept on hold “for hours” over the phone.
“It’s really difficult to get hold of anybody,” he said. “I was kept on hold for hours one day, and this wasn’t my first time trying. At the time I was also told the report I made online hadn’t gone through as the tool wasn’t working, but this wasn’t made clear anywhere on the website.”
As a result of the ongoing issues, Patel said he is considering not renewing his contract with the firm.
“This isn’t a one-off problem,” he said. “I’ve had my machine for two years and it’s forever breaking down. At the moment, I’d be very wary about re-signing. I’m not prepared to stay with a supplier that won’t support retailers.”
Stores also expressed growing concern about how they will cope if the breakdowns continue into the peak trading season.
One retailer, who wished to remain anonymous and who has been without a machine for a month, told Retail Express: “If these issues are causing so much disruption now, what’s going to happen during the summer? I’ve lost money in the past few weeks, but I can’t afford for my machine to be out of use when it gets hotter. I’ll be hit even further.”
Sandeep Bains, owner of Welcome Faversham in Kent, said his appointment to fix his two machines was pushed back multiple times this month, costing him £600.
“They just kept messing me about,” he said. “I first got a date for a fix about four weeks ago, but it’s been delayed because they don’t have a part. They can’t tell me when it will be delivered so they can’t come out.”
This isn’t the first time retailers have criticised Frozen Brothers. Last year, more than a dozen retailers complained they had been left “high and dry” with unfulfilled orders, after making upfront payments for the machines. One retailer said a replacement machine arrived with no prearranged discussion, and broke down “moments after delivery”.
At the time, Frozen Brothers refused to address the issues raised about the level of customer service they were displaying.
Meten Lakhani, of St Mary’s Supermarket in Southampton, added he is stressed about losing customers as they are growing increasingly frustrated over the breakdown. “People travel long distances to use the Coca-Cola slush machine in my store as it’s the only one in Southampton,” he said. “I just feel stupid when they keep coming in and asking why it’s still broken – I have no answers to give them.”
Lakhani claimed he was told by the firm that a large number of engineers left during the pandemic, leaving them stretched and unable to carry out maintenance appointments.
When approached for comment, Frozen Brothers’ sales director, Kevin Scoles, told betterRetailing: “I’ve got nothing to say, you are clearly creating an issue.”
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