When companies outsource a service it often comes with teething troubles. I hope that's the case for Menzies Distribution. I had two calls in a row from retailers who were distinctly unimpressed by Menzies' new call centre. Ali Seedat, who trades at Morley, outside Leeds, described the service as "worse than lousy". He, like many, disliked the fact that he can no longer just ring up the wholesaler and get someone who has some inside knowledge of the sector, instead of a third party who can only pass on the message, query or problem.
It had real consequences for Ahmed Sayyaz, who runs Amir and Sons in Edinburgh. "They take a message at the call centre and say someone will get back to you, yet no one does."
He really needed a bit of attention too. The wholesaler has the keys to his shutters and for an entire week the delivery man neglected to close them after dropping off the papers, leaving the place highly vulnerable for around three hours. And, of course, someone took advantage of this as Ahmed's bakery delivery, which comes just after midnight and therefore precedes his papers delivery, got pinched. Insurance won't cover it.
"All the Menzies man had to do was push a button," says Ahmed, "and all I could do was to leave messages for the transport manager."
I had a look at Menzies' discussion forum website and could only agree with one retailer's recent suggestion that "an employee should be formally tasked to read the forums and reply to queries, suggestions and problems in a timely and meaningful manner". Someone else responded to this, saying: "Good idea, but if you get a response from Menzies I will eat my own head."