Foyles seems to have forgotten that its primary function is to sell books. It has no central information source, no databank, nothing that might help the hapless punter to avoid exploring the entire labyrinth. Some of the staff are more helpful than others, or at least more disposed to be so, but they are all hampered by a system so dusty as to be almost unworkable.

You cannot just buy a book and leave, like in a real shop. You take it to a desk where a staff member fills in a chit saying what it is. Then you go in search of a cashier - if you can find one. Payment completed, you return to the first department, and get your book back. Presumably this is some antiquated stocktaking practice based on a belief that the computer will be the death of the printed word. The quickest way to kill books is to make buying them this daunting.

On the ground floor, where I wanted one of the better-known London guides (out of stock, they thought; it certainly was not on any obvious shelf), it was suggested that I could try Books Etc. over the road. Well, yes. . .