Mr. A Non got in touch. He didn’t want his name used because he has no grumble with his local Booker branch, or manager, but he has a beef with Booker’s overall policy on price promotions.

He cited a case of Carling pints, costing £19.99 at his Booker branch, on promotion with £1 off. With VAT the purchase costs about £24.

Nearby to where he trades there is a Premier store selling the same product at £4 for 4 cans so he figures they are paying about £17 a case. He notes the Bell’s is also cheaper in the Premier.

He asks: “How can it be right that I could just go next door and buy it for the same price as the cash and carry?”

He says anyone can figure out the difference just by walking past the Premier store as the price is on posters in the windows for all to see. “It’s up there: 4 for 4 quid and you think ‘cracking deal’, but who’s funding it? Either the manufacturers are, or we are.”

Theoretically, he could save his petrol by just buying his stock from the Premier (providing the guy would supply a VAT receipt)… but he spends about half a million a year in his Booker branch, so that’s probably not practical. He makes another point that, because he is in a remote part of the country, it would be too far to travel to get to any other wholesaler. So, he feels that his choice is Hobson’s choice (in the 16th century Hobson used to hire out horses in Cambridge: you got the one nearest the door, or none at all that was the choice).

He says there are about 15-20 items on promotion at this time of year (this was sent in just pre-Christmas) and reckons that there is about a 10% differential across the board at any given time.

I did suggest to him that there has to be some incentive for indies to become Premier retailers and he quite agrees and says he also totally agrees with the fact that it wouldn’t be right (or allowed) to have two Premiers in such close proximity, so he couldn’t join even if he wanted to.

He just keeps coming back to the point that he should not be able to buy items from the Premier nearby at the same price as he pays in his Booker branch.

I put it to Booker, and head office confirmed: “The prices that the retailer is referring to were available in branch from November 21 to November 27. For instance, Carling 6 x 4 pint pack was £17.49, Carlsberg 6 x 4 pint pack was £16.99 and Strongbow 6 x 4 pint pack was £16.99.”

The company pointed out that this was “great value for all our customers” and added that it would be “more than happy to speak to the retailer directly and would be delighted to see how we can help them grow their business”.

More to the point, the spokeswoman said: “Having a strong promotional offer is one of the many benefits of being part of a symbol group such as Premier. We run a different promotion programme for our Premier retailers as we are able to negotiate different deals with our suppliers in return for the support and discipline of our symbol group members. This means they have to pass the promotion on to shoppers at the promotional rsp.”

So, it’s horses for courses, as Hobson might also have said.