The week before I started writing this column I referred two retailers to Dorothy King, who started the process of guiding them through the news wholesalers’ official complaints process on behalf of the Press Distribution Forum.
The first one was Ken Naran, whose business (Bindiya, Manchester) used to open at 7am with supplies from Smiths News arriving at 6.30am. Since mid-August they are not getting there until 7.20 at the earliest. His driver told him there was nothing he could do as his workload was too large. Ken complained to Smiths News, but when there was no improvement he changed his opening hours to 7.30am. Then the papers started to arrive at 7.45am.
He repeatedly complained to Smiths News’ call centre at Newcastle and each time was told that it would be logged with the depot at Stockport. No one ever rings him back.
He says he was repeatedly told the publisher was to blame, which he says is rubbish. He has six other stores where deliveries are on time. And his is the only store in the area not getting papers in a timely fashion. As he points out: “That the publisher is sending the paper late does not wash, unless the publisher is running a special print for this one store.”
He is now going through stage two of the complaints process.
The second retailer was Mohammed Asif, who runs two stores in Reddish, Stockport, and is paying two delivery charges to Smiths. Although the papers are arriving okay at one, the other, which is called Teem Spirits and sells only magazines, gets no paperwork.
He says: “What the Stockport depot does is remember to put our magazines in the tote box, but somehow forgets to put the paperwork in. Then we have to phone the (Newcastle) helpline when we are told they will ring Stockport and it will be sorted for the next day. Which never happens. And next day we are on the phone again.”
He wondered whether he could withhold payment until Smiths does the job it is paid to do? Good question. And he has another. “Should we bill them for our time and phone costs that we incur?” (He could try but they are not that good with paperwork and I don’t think it would be easy to sue a monopoly.)
Dorothy’s office is now also guiding Mohammed through a formal stage two complaint.