The Curse of WH Smith

In Dublin Airport, as in most other European Airports these days, WH Smith has a monopoly on the sale of printed matter, including newspapers. This morning, then, on my way back to Wales and wanting something to read, and a crossword to do, on the flight, I picked up a copy of the Weekend FT and took it to the automatic checkout.

As you can see, the newspaper is clearly marked ‘Republic of Ireland €4. 00’ (the price has just gone up). I scanned it on the machine and was about to pay when I noticed the price had come up as €5.70. Querying this apparent error with the assistant I was told this was the price I would have to pay because “this is the airport”.

I refused, and bought the Irish Times instead. That was marked €3.20 on the banner, the same amount as I was charged. I eventually bought the FT when I got back to Cardiff. The crossword was quite easy.

I don’t know of it’s unlawful in Ireland to attempt to sell goods at higher than the marked price, but it’s certainly sharp practice to do it surreptitiously, as Smith’s have done, in such a way that many people will pay without noticing the fact that they have applied a 42.5% markup. But then this company has a reputation for dodgy business practices, forcing small newsagents and bookshops out of the High Street and replacing them uniformly dreary outlets selling overpriced low quality items. You will struggle to find a decent bookshop in any airport because of the Curse of WH Smith.

Perhaps, after Brexit, WH Smith will lose its monopoly but I’m not waiting for that to make a decision not to shop there again.

6 Responses to “The Curse of WH Smith”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    Without commenting on WH Smith it is surely Amazon that has squeezed out small bookshops?

    • telescoper Says:

      Amazon had played its part but what I hear from a friend who runs a bookshop in Penarth is that WH Smith is an even bigger threat. People tend to use Amazon when they already know what they want.

  2. Peter Wood Says:

    Gave up shopping there years ago. Go to pay for something to read and get aggressively asked if I wAnt some chocolate or sweets

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Yes please, is it free?

      • No, not free. The staff are instructed to try persuading customers to buy sweets at the checkout.

        I can’t say in my experience they’ve ever done it ‘aggressively’ though.

        I usually just say I don’t like chocolate and watch their baffled expressions as I walk away.

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        That would baffle me too.

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