Teenagers in tow Then Waitrose bossy-boots won”t sell you Chablis
The other day I was refused alcohol in Waitrose. Not because of my age, nor because I don’t look my age. Nor, I hasten to add, because I was drunk.
I was buying supper — two chickens, two bottles of Chablis, green beans — and when the woman on the till reached the wine, she shook her head, folded her arms and told me she could not serve me.
At first I thought it was some silly joke. My children laughed along merrily.
‘Ooh, Mum — she thinks you’re 17.’
But the children were the problem. When you shop with small children they’re a nightmare because they’re whining and asking for sweets.
When you shop with teenage daughters you often find bizarre cosmetics and false nails have appeared in your basket.
What you don’t expect, at either stage of life, is that your shopping is censored because you are accompanied by your children.
The three in question were 21, 17 and 13 and were behaving perfectly decently.
None of that mattered. Waitrose has made it a policy not to serve alcohol to people accompanied by youngsters unless they have proof of age ID.
Baffled, I tried the art of charm and gentle conversation to change her mind.
She was a middle-aged lady, with a decent round face and not too badly dyed hair.
I thought we could connect. I discussed my brother, the food I was serving him, the distance I live from the town, but she was curiously uninterested.
My eldest daughter, who is a fighter, began to send out aggressive signals, but I called her to heel before the woman noticed.
No sale policy: Waitrose will not serve alcohol to people accompanied by youngsters
Then I suggested a compromise: I sent the younger ones out of the shop and turned back to the intransigent till-keeper.
‘Please can we start all over again’ I suggested.
‘Ah, but I’ve seen them now, haven’t I’ she answered. I called for the duty manager.
The duty manager, of course, backed up her worker, but seemed more willing to waver when she realised my eldest daughter is 21.
But again, ‘I’ve seen the others now, haven’t I’ repeated the till-keeper.
The duty manager was about half the age of the woman on the till and I don’t think dared to use her initiative, so Waitrose’s half-witted policy won its way.
At this point (I had been remarkably cool until then) I waved the spray-can of furniture polish at them.
‘Don’t you care that my daughter sniffs aerosols’ I demanded. ‘We don’t have a policy with aerosols,’ came the reply.
Now, if Waitrose wants to take responsibility for everything it sells, it shouldn’t stop at drink.
It should not sell sprays, or knives, or bananas, to anyone who cannot demonstrate that they plan to use them safely.
Now, if Waitrose wants to take responsibility for everything it sells, it shouldn’t stop at drink. It should not sell sprays, or knives, or bananas, to anyone who cannot demonstrate that they plan to use them safely
What if I don’t throw away the banana skin properly and an old lady slips on it and breaks her hip
Would that be my fault, or the old lady’s Neither, it would clearly be Waitrose’s for selling me the banana.
It is clear that Britain has a problem with alcohol.
You don’t need to see statistics on the subject, you need only drive down any main street of any rural town to see the youth of today hanging around, clutching tins or bottles of cheap alcohol and preparing to riot.
The police begin ‘policing’ as early as 6pm on a Friday night in my local town, and by 9pm the streets are not a pretty sight.
Asboth a mother of four and a teacher in a comprehensive school, I am more than aware that the teenage drinking problem is huge, and I am sureit is significantly worse than it was in my day.
Waitrose: Adults must now provide ID if they are to buy alcohol when with younger people
One 15-year-old boy I know of passed out in a park, was left by his panicked friends and then had a stroke; I know of teenagers arrested for vicious fighting while drunk, and endless tales of hospitalisation for alcohol poisoning.
And I know that, for the most part, it’s irresponsible passing grown-ups who buy alcohol for the teenagers.
Nevertheless, it does seem that there is a madness in this attempt to sort out the problem.
This is not to say that older people don’t drink; of course we do. Some of us greedily, some of us daintily, but fewer of us are doing it on the streets.
Neither do most of us pimp wine to underage drinkers, and if we were to, I doubt we would be buying them Chablis.
I am middle-class, middle-aged and (outwardly, at any rate) respectable.
Everything in my shopping basket shouted ‘middle-class shopper buying supper’. Perfect Waitrose customer.
However, in a desperate attempt to look as though it is doing something, Waitrose decided to use its ‘discretionary’ policy to ban me from buying alcohol.
We might as well turn to prohibition and drink in secret.
Is that the aim If so, I’d better start distilling straight away. The children might get thirsty.