Subhash Varambhia, who features in this column almost as often as Smiths News, has had a go at the latter over its new phone system. It is, he says, not fit for purpose and “in other words useless”.

Subhash, who trades as Snutch News in Leicester, writes: “A few weeks ago Smiths installed a centralised automated phone system connected to Wednesbury. Now we can no longer ring the local depot directly to inquire about the missing/late titles.

“I am a home delivery newsagent so it is of utmost importance to know the status. This enables me to keep boys and girls informed to ensure no impact on their school time. When all fails, I have to call for my wife (rapid response) so that I can deliver the late titles. I wake my wife at my peril.”

He may write amusingly, but it’s clearly no laughing matter. On the day of his email the local daily was late. “There was no late notice of re-run enclosed as per our T&Cs. So I rang at 5.10am. After fidgeting with options I got through to a recorded message saying Leicester Mercury is late by one to two hours !!@*??@!!”

He then rang a fellow newsagent and discovered that he had received his only 20 minutes late.

“Lo and behold, I received mine 30 minutes later. All ended well. Wife was not disturbed. Out of curiosity I rang Smiths at 8.30am. No surprise, the message was still giving out the same information.

“Other irritants, only 10 rings time window available for the depot staff to answer, after which the call is cut off. Claim is delivered the day after, or simply credited.”

In a public plea to Smiths, he says: “If you support the independents, please restore the direct contact system ASAP.” I bet they don’t.