I've had three calls in the past few weeks from concerned retailers who have received 'Important Dated Material' through the post from a company called Business Internet Directory, urging them to check the enclosed business listing details and inform the company of their business category so that 'their listing can be activated'. 

The back of the letter has about three dozen terms (therefore, in quite small print) and at one point indicates when it will not be liable for any 'refund', which alerted me to the fact that there is probably a cost somewhere - not that it was mentioned on the front of the letter.

The company has both a website and a phone number. I visited the website and noted that a priority ad would cost £149. When I phoned the company I was told that this was wrong. It should have said £99.50 a year for a small corner shop. 

I was put through to a spokeswoman, which is probably not a fair term as I don't think she had ever handled a press call before, especially as I told her I was taking notes and would be printing what she said and she didn't object. Believe me, usually they do object. She told me that the company has 2.2 million names on their database but not all are 'live'. 

She said they had got the list from their 'telephone provider' but didn't know whether this meant they had bought a list from BT, for example, or had trawled through Yellow Pages. 

I don't know how Tom Cragg, who was first to contact me, got on the list in the first place. I did suggest to her that few local convenience stores would feel the need to advertise their location as most of their customers would know where they are anyway. 'Googling' for a grocery store is not the same as looking for a leather tanning specialist, is it?

When I went back to the website to see if Tom had a free listing rather than the enhanced one offered, I saw that he had not. So it seems activating the list means that you pay. The letter doesn't say this.

This wouldn't be much use to Tom, anyway. He retired from Woodvale Stores in Chester the week before he called me. The store is in the Co-op's hands now and I doubt it will go for a listing. Happy retirement, Tom!

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