As hundreds of business owners shuffle through BP's claims process to recover losses brought on by the oil disaster, the company's promise that it will "deny no legitimate claim" is taking on a bitter meaning.
"They have not denied our claim. They have just not paid it all," said Tommy Holmes, owner of Outcast Marine, a fishing-tackle supply company in Pensacola. Holmes lost $73,000 in May and expects losses in June to exceed $100,000. BP has paid him $26,000 for May and refuses to pay the rest, he says. Holmes plans to sue them.
The problem: BP's definition of what it is willing to cover. BP will cover lost profits on the inventory that sits on the shelf but not the inventory itself.
BP spokesman Robert Wine said the company is "trying to put shop owners in the position financially that they would have been in had the incident not occurred." That includes sending reimbursement checks every month they demonstrate a loss and paying for inventory that would have been sold.
"If we sell it for $1 and our profit is 40 cents, what's left is 60 cents," Holmes said. "They don't want to pay us for the inventory that's sitting on the shelf, and we can't pay for it." He buys supplies in January for the summer and pays distributors in the fishing season, when business is good.
"They give us credit like that because we've built up a relationship with them for 23 years," Holmes said. "But now I'm going out of business and my vendors are next. This whole thing is snowballing."
As of Tuesday, BP has cut about 6,000 checks in Florida and paid out $20 million in claims, 15 percent of the $132 million written by BP across all five states. There are 11 claims offices open in Florida.