You get a test purchasing visit from the Responsible Tobacco Retailing programme funded by JTI, Imperial Tobacco and Philip Morris and carried out by Serve Legal. You pass, but you object to this meddling and write to all three companies delisting yourself from reps’ visits.
This was back at the turn of the year. Responsible Tobacco Retailing confirmed in this very column (C-Store 12 February) that it had removed Subhash Varambhia’s store (Snutch Newsagents, Leicester) from its test purchasing.
Oops, there they were again at the tail end of May. And this time he was placed ‘at risk’ because he didn’t ask for ID. Serve Legal only use people who are over 18, so no one ever breaks the law.
Subhash has taken great offence at this second, unwelcome visit and has drafted an open letter to them. Here’s some of it:
“Naturally, we are disappointed with your testing and its objectives. If, as you claim, that the decoy you use is over 18 and no law is broken, so where or how is it testing?
“The frequency of your visits, ie twice in the space of six months, is bound to trip up a retailer on the balance of probability. We have always passed the underage tests in our 30 years of trading. We do not need the likes of you to tell us anything otherwise.
“To me it is clear that the sole objective of your outfit is to build up credibility and then sell your services to the local authority to displace the Trading Standards. Or to put bluntly: what is in it for you?”
The report showed that Subhash had given his full attention to the sale and had looked the test purchaser in the eye. So he wasn’t faffing around on his mobile or chatting to a colleague.
But for Subhash, the final insult was the decoy’s description of him: “Within six months you have described my hair from black to grey! For that, definitely take us off your list.”