"How do news wholesalers get paid? Are they on commission from publishers?" asks Ivor Thomas, who runs Norcot News at Tilehurst in Reading. Ivor contacted me some time ago with a complaint about the erratic supply situation he endures through Smiths. But the problem is an ongoing one, his daughter confirmed earlier this month.
"Bad news is their middle name," quipped Ivor. "Whatever I ask for, I get disregarded," he continued, "so I wonder if they're on an incentive payment?"
He has some interesting examples. "I've got one 'save in store' request for the Maidenhead Advertiser. Order just one and you get one, then, two weeks later, you get 18 copies."
He has been selling Polski Newspaper (Polish News) for six years - just the one copy daily. The number recently got arbitrarily doubled. "It's a fag to have to put it on the shelf, not sell it, then do the returns," he adds.
"The wholesalers take their money by direct debit and refund it 10 days later," he points out, "so they get interest on it, too."
He has done some sums. "You could guess that would be £50 a week via direct debit on unwanted copies."
The Reading depot has 385 customers, so he works out that this comes to about £1,500 in interest just on the Reading patch. "Although it's called sale or return," he concludes, "it's not really. It's buy it and then return it and reclaim."