Vultures circling 16 year-old internet cowboy Gary Cooper
He had it all; boyish good looks, a two-piece matching tracksuit and what appeared to be not one, but two prosthetic hands. He had the world at his feet, or at least the knackered pitch of a League One football club on the wrong end of a 2-1 pasting:
But just two short months later, his world was in ruins, robbed of his strength by a sensible haircut:
This is the tale of 16 year-old Gary Cooper from Benfleet in Essex, declared in December by The Daily Mail and The Sun to be a "tycoon", making £30,000 month in a business he operated outside of school lessons:
Gary, 16, employs four staff selling mobile phones and gadgets on the internet. During the day he studies for four A-levels at Southend High School for Boys in Essex. But before and after lessons the whizzkid runs his business.
Gary, who believes the firm will make its first £1million in a few years, pays himself £500 a month and is saving for a speedboat.
Mmm. Speedboat. That was all very well, except Cooper's firm GC's PC's (his punctuation) was clocking up plenty of attention online, in particular on Digital Spy. Dozens of forum users had similar complaints of the company - payment been taken and items not arriving, non-existent customer services, additional money been charged for questionable reasons, and a set of terms and conditions plucked from the verse of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky:
5.4 Your order if flagged as high risk, may be subject to a fraud check. These will be underdone by a senior member of staff charged at £85 per hour charged per 15 minutes.
6.6 You do not have the right to cancel the contract if the order is for perishable goods such as computer software.
10. Pre-order Products
10.5 A minimum of £8.90 will be charged to cover staff wages for ordering your product and cannot be refunded.
That's right folks - computer software is classed as perishable goods.
For eight pages of the Digital Spy thread, forum members swap cautionary tales concerning the company, and then the man boy himself wades in. Seriously, if you have a spare half hour, start reading. It's incredible stuff as the Cooper and his company slowly appear to fall apart.
To cut a long story short, despite professing his innocence from the start, credit card merchant Protx has pulled its services, the website has disappeared, Trading Standards are investigating and Essex Police have requested any further complaints be sent to them. There also seems to be the small matter of a company turning over £400,000 a year not charging its customers VAT.
The whole episode sounds like a chicken trapped in a bag of hammers, and it's not over yet. Expect to hear more of Gary Cooper's exploits in the future. [thanks for the tip-off from The Couch!]