While visiting Amsterdam in the interests of research ­ Albert Heijn has some state-of-the-art concept stores there, honest ­ I was told one of the UK's leading drinks buyers was moving on. But Chinese whispers being what they are, I thought it would be prudent to check it out. Asda told me that its business unit director John Reynolds is not heading off for Germany or any other part of the Wal-Mart empire but is in fact going to hospital for a hip operation, which just goes to show you cannot afford to be ill in this business. And I hope John makes a full recovery. Meanwhile, one of my colleagues rang a retailer who will remain nameless, and explained to the PR department that he'd like to mention it as part of a larger feature. Back came the reply that he was not even to mention the company in the article, and they could not help him in any way. "I have to feature you," he protested, "so if you won't help me I'lI just have to rely on your press release." "Which press release is that?" they asked. "The one about the profits warning," he answered. A short while later the chief executive was on the phone wanting to establish some ground rules for the interview. Top marks for Costcutter, though, who nearly overwhelmed another colleague by fielding five men in suits for her visit to a 2,000 sq ft c-store In North London. The owner's thoughtful provison of lashings of sandwiches, pastries, crisps, and some disco tunes kept her on an even keel. {{COUNTERPOINT }}