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“You want to be able to trust your customers” - egg farmers forced to turn to vending machine after honesty box thefts

PUBLISHED: 18:13 03 August 2017 | UPDATED: 16:10 04 August 2017

Julie and David Barber of the Egg Shed at Wymondham, with their new egg vending machine installed to stop customers taking eggs without paying. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Julie and David Barber of the Egg Shed at Wymondham, with their new egg vending machine installed to stop customers taking eggs without paying. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2017

There must be hundreds of roadside and farm gate stalls up and down the country selling everything from fruit and veg to firewood with an honesty box for payment.

Eggs in the Egg Shed at Wymondham's new egg vending machine installed to stop customers taking eggs without paying. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Eggs in the Egg Shed at Wymondham's new egg vending machine installed to stop customers taking eggs without paying. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

But a family who farm in Wymondham has experienced first hand the sad truth that some customers are less than honest when it comes to leaving money for the produce they take.

David and Julie Barber keep 16,000 free range hens at Cavick House Farm and as well as selling eggs on contract to M&S and the Happy Egg Co they have, for the past seven years, been selling direct to customers who come to the farm.

But while they were replenishing stocks in their little Egg Shed on a more frequent basis, the takings were going down.

“Last Christmas we decided something had to change because we were bringing more and more eggs up but the money didn’t match,” said Mr Barber.

Julie and David Barber of the Egg Shed at Wymondham, by the old hen house housing their new egg vending machine installed to stop customers taking eggs without paying. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Julie and David Barber of the Egg Shed at Wymondham, by the old hen house housing their new egg vending machine installed to stop customers taking eggs without paying. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“We worked out we were losing around £150 worth of eggs a week. They were being taken in broad daylight under our noses. Whether it was people taking two dozen and paying for one or just not paying at all we don’t know but about 40 percent of our eggs were not being paid for.”

They decided they had to act or the Egg Shed would become financially unviable. So through a farmer in Scotland, who had also suffered the same problem, they ordered a vending machine, which was made to their own specifications by a company in Germany.

Now customers can put their coins or notes in the slots and choose either half a dozen or a tray of medium, large or jumbo eggs from the machine, all on the same self-service basis. The only difference is there is no longer any room for error.

Takings are back up and customers are also happy that the Egg Shed will remain a feature of the farm.

Eggs from the Egg Shed at Wymondham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Eggs from the Egg Shed at Wymondham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“People suggested we put in CCTV but it would still be hard to catch those responsible,” said Mrs Barber. “I also like the fact that the eggs stay fresh and are not being handled by lots of people.

“It is very sad that some people feel the need to steal. If they really needed the eggs that badly we would give them to them.

“We work very hard as a family, a lot of effort goes into caring for our chickens, and most people have been horrified to hear how many eggs were being stolen.

“You want to be able to trust your customers but sadly you can’t trust them all.”

Eggs in the Egg Shed at Wymondham's new egg vending machine installed to stop customers taking eggs without paying. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Eggs in the Egg Shed at Wymondham's new egg vending machine installed to stop customers taking eggs without paying. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Initial concerns

Annabel Barber runs the Hen House cafe at Cavick House Farm and uses the free range eggs for her homemade cakes.

She said customers had initial concerns when they heard the eggs were going to be sold from a vending machine.

“People were worried it would be complicated and they liked the easy approach we had before and the fact we trusted them,” she said.

“It was the old fashioned way of doing things so we were worried we would get negative feedback but it has gone down really well.

“We were told that sales would drop but takings are up even by selling less eggs so that shows how many were being taken.

“It is a much better system and it can be expanded to add more boxes and to take card and phone payments in the future.”

* The Egg Shed is open Monday to Saturday 8.30am to 6pm and the Hen House is open Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 2pm.

* Visit the website for more information.

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