Column Eight: Turn-up for the books

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A postscript to the recent kerfuffle at Waterstone's bookshops, where staff suffered sky-high blood pressure after WH Smith, the parent company, reneged on a sales- related bonus scheme. (This in the week when WH Smith's managing director, Sir Malcolm Field, received a dinky little 57 per cent pay increase, his salary zooming from pounds 117,000 to pounds 323,000.)

There has been a volte face. The bonus, which had been 'deferred at least for this financial year', has been reinstated. WH Smith passes questions of the climbdown on to Waterstone's. No comment there either.

Times are tough at Charles Barker, the advertising and PR agency that has just moved from the City to Soho. Apparently 60 staff are expected to jostle for the use of just eight telephone lines. Even worse, a memo asks them to stagger calls and keep them brief.

Telling a PR person to have a brief telephone call? That's torture by any other name.

Before David Mellor walked away to start his new life, timely advice was being directed at him by entrants in a national competition organised by BP. This invites customers at its service stations to send in witty catchphrases based on the House of Commons postcode, SW1A 0AA.

A few of this month's winners - 'Some weeks one assumes none are awake' - did not mention Mellor. Many more did. 'Sleeping with indiscreet actresses only arouses animosity,' runs one. 'Some whipping is allowed - only avoid actresses,' warns another. Alas, too late, too late.

The wonderfully named Robert E Lee is a new associate director of Hanson. You will remember how illustrious was the career of his namesake, the Confederate general, before he surrendered an army of 28,231 men in the American Civil War, and not view the Robert E Lees as pushovers.

Anxious to cleanse its workforce of nicotine, the American company Warner- Lambert has launched a stop- smoking programme. Staff who pay dollars 25 to enrol will be given a Smoke Stoppers Behavioural Modification Kit. Treatment with a sticky nicotine patch, if prescribed, costs dollars 50.

Not bad value, you may think, until you learn the company actually manufactures the Nicotrol patches. Employees might find it cheaper just to grab one from the production line and slap it on.