I started looking into 0845 and 0800 numbers on BT's website after I was contacted by several retailers all ex-Dawsons customers complaining that they are being charged to ring Menzies Distribution to tell them that their orders were wrong/short.
Meena Patel, who runs Bargain Booth in Eastbourne, East Sussex, says: "It's costing me 15p a minute for this 0845 call to Menzies. I used to get through straightaway to a person with Dawsons. Now I hear that I'm 17th in the queue and only have two hours to report anything wrong. Are they making money on this?"
Khalid Khawaja rang from his Costcutter in Southend, Essex, with a similar story. "I was told the whole call should be 10p. Now I'm told it's 10p per min. I'm on the phone three or four time to Menzies every week. I'm making a loss."
Dave Shedden, head of communications at Menzies, assured me that the company makes nothing out of the calls. "The 0845 numbers are classified as low-rate calls and BT doesn't charge for them anymore. It is down to the retailer's service provider what they are charged."
He adds that there are options that cost nothing. "Retailers can do most of their daily transactions online at www.i-menzies.com and it won't cost a penny and there are no queues."
Online got me thinking. Publishing is struggling. Everyone is pondering how to make money out of websites. The London Evening Standard has turned into a free sheet and a number of journalists have been debating how soon before most national papers are free. Add to this the dwindling number of local papers being published and, well, what's the future for distributors/retailers?