Seven out of ten independent retailers believe children should not be allowed to lie about their age when taking part in alcohol test purchasing stings.
That is the finding of The Grocer’s latest reader panel survey on one of the industry’s most contentious issues.
Retailers also accused the Home Office, which favours changing the rules to make probes more realistic, of attempting to introduce entrapment into the test purchasing process.
However, three out of ten claim that encouraging children to lie in the process would be a more realistic way of clamping down on traders who break the rules by selling to minors.
Local government regulator Lacors is examining proposals to change the rules and is due to report its findings in late spring.
At present, children used by authorities should not lie about their age when challenged, although some retailers have already claimed that minors lied about their age in several
2cases during the Home Office’s pre-Christmas test purchasing blitz.
But it appears that retailers themselves are divided over the issue. “Allowing kids to lie will not help the situation,” said one retailer, while another said she did not agree with lying at all.
But while many independents quizzed by The Grocer felt that their job was already hard enough without test purchasing rules being changed, others felt that a change in the law would not affect retailers with robust procedures in place. “If you, and all your staff, operate a strict ‘no ID, no sale’ policy, then this proposed change will make little difference,” said one. He did, however, admit that if other family members or adults came in to buy beer or cigarettes for underage customers, then there was little he could do about it.
A retailer in Nottingham added: “Because the majority of shopkeepers are much stricter nowadays, kids are getting more canny and getting adults to buy the stuff for them. I think parents should be made responsible for kids trying to trick shopkeepers.”
Nevertheless, one depressing statistic from our survey was that almost every person questioned had suffered verbal or physical abuse for refusing to sell age-restricted products to customers believed to be underage.
Pop star Katie Melua received a cheque for £1m on behalf of the homeless charity Shelter from The Co-operative Group’s chief executive Martin Beaumont. Staff raised the money for Shelter’s Million Children Campaign, which aims to end overcrowded, unfit and emergency housing for more than a million children in the UK. Dem’a Crawford, whose family was formerly homeless, is pictured with Melua handing over a thank you card to Beaumont.
Gail Hunt
Reader Panel: Independents