Paul Broadbent’s moan in the last issue about soggy magazine bundles prompted a furious fax from Glen in Rayleigh, Essex. He doesn’t want his last name used because he thinks that someone at Menzies Distribution might decide to reduce the quality of service even further (he has a big account). He has tried the complaints process in the past, but found it only worked for a little while.

He writes: “The only language Menzies and Smiths understand is to report them to Trading Standards for supplying damaged goods and, as a last resort, take a proportion off the delivery charge if paying by cheque.”

He pays by direct debit so this isn’t an option for him, but I understand what he means about TSOs: the goods you sell must be fit for purpose, and soggy mags just don’t measure up.

I rang Glen for more info. “We’ve got a funny set up,” he explains. “The magazines come from a ‘super-warehouse’ in Maidstone, Kent, and the newspapers come from Grays in Essex. So the magazines travel from Maidstone to Grays and then are distributed to retailers. The empty tote boxes are left outside at Maidstone with no covers. To stack them, the covers are removed and they are left outside in the open - drivers have told me this.”

So when it rains, water goes inside the boxes.

Glen adds that when he goes to NFRN meetings the subject always comes up. He adds that if he is short a few copies of Hello!, for example, he can get them from the supermarket. But when it’s one copy of Boxing News or any specialised mag, you cannot get replacements.

This strikes me as a retailer who is very particular about giving his customers the right service, right down to the single copy of this and obscure copy of that. As a customer of the wholesaler, he deserves the same service.

But, to add insult to injury, he says, Menzies has informed him that if they don’t get all their empty tote boxes back, they will charge. “If I send one back and keep two, Menzies says it has a record and I will be penalised £10 per day, per box. And they already charge £65 a week for deliveries!”