Butcher Boy ( Part 13, Old Ken and the Vouchers)
The cousins, Teddy and Danny, became very familiar faces at the shop. Just like Gaz they were even there when I turned up at 07.00 in the morning.They would be wearing their hand made suits and gangster overcoats and I'm sure that they had just come from a club or late night drinking den somewhere! It was as if they didn't want to miss anything, they wanted to be involved right from the start. They knew that Roy could earn them money and they didn't want to miss out on any of it.But also because Roy was such a great character to be around. He just seemed to be having a great time and people like to be around that cos it makes them feel good.
They were always talking about some scam or other and quite oftion there would be plans written on scraps of paper on the cutting blocks. But in September 1975 they decided to slow down a bit.
Gaz was always a bit paranoid, but one day he turned up and was convinced he had been followed from his house in Dagenham all the way to the shop in East Ham. The cousins were there and the four of them decided to have a "cooling off period" for 3 months.
Over the past 18 months or so we had managed to shift everything that had turned up no matter what quantity. From Corned Beef to a lorry load of Sanitary Towels!. Everyone was still earning good money from some of the smaller scams without having to risk everything for the elusive "big one". Everyone shook hands and agreed to meet up again in January. If the old bill were following any of them they would certainly get fed up if nothing much happened in 3 months. They just wouldn't have the man power to stick it out.
So Roy decided to concentrate once again on the deliveries. The Records and tapes no longer came into the shop, they went straight to Meads and Roy just took his cut ( so did I). Deliveries always went round the back and no one took much notice of deliveries being made to a small parade of shops.
Roy had become friendly with an old shopkeeper called Ken. I say old, he was only about 40 but had silver hair which made him look older than his years. He had one of those typical corner shops on a local council estate. He was always open and sold everything!
Old Ken mentioned to Roy one day about a nice little earner he had going. Of course Roys ears pricked up straightaway. Old Ken said he had a couple of housewives in the Barking area that did "leaflet delivery". They lived on his estate and one day approached him to ask if he wanted any vouchers cheap?
These ladies delivered small booklets of grocery vouchers. They would put them through the doors of people on the estate. In the booklet there would be maybe 8 or 10 vouchers. Maybe 2p off a jar of Nescafe or 4p off Margarine. People cut these vouchers out of the booklets and took them to their local Grocers and exchanged them for the goods. So if a jar of Nescafe was 25p, they would hand over a 2p voucher and 23p in cash. Simple. The shop owner then takes the vouchers to a cash and carry and exchanges them for more coffee and gets his money refunded. The cash and carry get their money back from the their suppliers. The system works, sales of coffee go up and everyone wins.
Now these ladies were selling Old Ken a few hundred booklets a week. Booklets may be worth 25p in vouchers, Ken would buy them at 10p each. But he would get the full value back from the cash and carry.
Roy wanted to try this out to see if it worked, cos if it did, he wanted some of it. He bought 50 books from Old Ken for 15p each, came back to the shop and we all stood around ripping out the vouchers from the booklets. Each booklet had 32p of vouchers in them, so £16 in value. Roy had paid £7.50 for them. He got in the van and drove off to a cash and carry in Dagenham. He bought some coffee, sugar and tea. He handed over the vouchers and the girl agreed they were worth £16 and Roy just paid the balance. It worked. This was like buying money. But it had to be bigger, much, much bigger!
Roy was like a big kid, he had just earnt £8.50, which was nothing to him but it was the sheer potential of it. "Fuck, hi-jacking lorries, this little scam is genius!" he was like a dog with two dicks.
He made a phone call to the local unemployment office, he said that his wife was looking for a bit of part time work, as the kids were getting a bit older. He had noticed some local woman delivering leaflets and thought that would suit his wife perfectly. The nice helpful lady on the phone gave him a number to call. June was the local co-ordinator for leaflet drops in his area. Roy went to visit June, when he came back he said there were leaflets everywhere. They were in every room, on each stair, in the kitchen, everywhere! Now I don't know what Roy said or did but within days Roy was going out and coming back with 1000,s of booklets. Sometimes as many as 5000 at a time. He was obviously paying June a nice few quid ( I think he may have been giving her something extra as well, if you know what I mean). Every spare minute we had we were cutting vouchers out of these booklets, screwing them up a bit so they looked used and putting them in £100 piles. There were piles everywhere.
Roy worked this in many ways. He would either take £1000 worth of vouchers to Mr Patel. Mr Patel would give him £700 cash. Mr Patel was happy because he was getting £300 for nothing as he would claim the whole amount back from the manufacturer. Roy was giving June about £200, so he was making £500 every time. Some weeks he could do this 3 or 4 times. When it got a bit heavy, Mr Patel would tell Roy to slow down for a week or two. Roy would simply go to another cash and carry and buy goods with them. He would then sell these goods to his network of local shop keepers. He just couldn't lose. We even took on one of Roys younger cousins just to come in a few hours a day to cut out coupons!
It lasted for months, we ALL made a shed load of money. Then there was a massive clamp down. Mr Patel called Roy one day and said that he had just had a visit from Limehouse CID, asking why his cash and carry was the biggest receiver of vouchers in the whole of the UK? Mr Patel did his usual ( pretended not to speak much english and just kept shrugging his shoulders), eventually they left. But Roy shut down the operation there and then. No more vouchers.
Ever wondered why you stopped getting these type of things through the door or why they stopped appearing in Daily Newspapers, well, Roy had a big hand in it!
Gaz being followed, Mr Patel being visited by local CID. Coincidence?
But as usual it was all easy come and go for Roy. There would always be something else just around the corner. Or so we all thought....