I warn you, this is a depressing story… but very important so please read carefully. Mr P, who no longer has a c-store himself, helps out as a sort of relief guy. He was doing just that for a store in the North: the owners were in Canada for a wedding. As it happened, he too had a wedding to attend one weekend and he left his helper in charge. Daughter of the owners, who was the designated premises supervisor (DPS), was also at a wedding that day (yes, we know, lots of weddings, a wedding too far as it turned out).

It was a particularly busy Sunday afternoon and Trading Standards chose that moment to send in a voluntary test purchaser. The helper had been more worried about the queues and that some people might ‘take advantage’ so he was keen to just get on with serving.

Yep, he didn’t ask for ID and he got done. He has put his hand up; he didn’t mean to make this very big mistake. He gained nothing from the sale. But there we are.

The TSO sent him and the DPS letters which offered choices –either attend an interview, or fill in a lengthy form (26 questions for the helper, 31 for the DPS). My immediate thought was fill in the form, it gives you a chance to think carefully and probably mirrors the interview questions anyway.

I put Mr P in touch with Chris Mitchener who, until recently, ran Swan Street Stores in Kingsclere, Hampshire (he has just sold the business) and who also runs Licensing Solutions. What Chris doesn’t know about licensing isn’t worth knowing.

Always better to do forms, said Chris. He went on to read the letters sent by the TSO and added: “There is nothing nasty or insidious in these questions in the sense that nobody is obviously out to get them, BUT if the wrong answers are given there they will be prosecuted.

“They are looking to see if all the training was in place and just an error was made, or if it was done on purpose because every sale is profit, or if the training in place – if any – was good enough to have prevented it. These are usually the three things that are relevant.

“If the training was good enough and an error was made then the licensee is unlikely to be prosecuted and the seller will get a fixed-fee fine. If it was done with any chance of intent they will throw the book at them. If the training was deficient then that is where it can be hairy or okay, dependent on how they deal with it.”

Chris later reported back that, indeed, there had not been any proper training and that Mr P had no employment records for the guy who sold the goods to the test purchaser and neither did the owner have any employment records for Mr P. On top of that, the owner’s daughter had a full-time job elsewhere.

All retailers need to take this subject seriously. If you need any help on it Chris can provide the proper training.