It was like a scene from Carry on Cash and Carrying. Roger Dicker had just come back from a much-needed holiday shortly after the tobacco display ban had come into force and went to his Booker branch to stock up his Kentford Village Stores & PO with cigarettes.
“The palaver was amazing you couldn’t make this up,” he says, and before we go any further he stresses that he is no way blaming Booker for his surreal experience as he likes both the branch and its staff.
The cigarette room - with shutters the size of a double garage - had piles of toilet rolls parked in front which you had to skirt in order to get in (to ensure no one passing can see in when the shutters go up revealing those, erm, legal products). He was escorted in by a member of staff and the packets of his choice were put into a plastic bag. This used to be a clear bag so that the person on the checkout could double-check the amount.
“Now they’re in black bin bags because it cannot be visible to children. I said I can see through this poor quality bag so they got a better quality one. I asked how checkout will manage and they replied: ‘We have to feel’.
“It gets better,” he continues. “I have a 10-year old and a five-year old. Can the boys come into the room with me? ‘No,’ they said, ‘they’ll have to wait outside’. What a five-year old on his own? They said ‘A member of staff will have to stay with him’. Oh? And are all the staff Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checked?”
Roger rang back with an update the branch does have a member of staff who has been CRB checked, but staff will now do the cigarette picking, working from Roger’s order. And it will be unpacked at the checkout to be counted. “I don’t know if my child will be allowed to stand with me, but they are doing their best to work around these ludicrous restraints.”
The trouble is, as Roger says, like so many rules and regs, it wasn’t thought through properly. It’s another grey area to ponder over (perhaps some more officials are needed to pronounce whether Booker must cover up in this belt-and-braces manner).
What are other cash and carries doing? Do let us know.
I wonder what the multiples are doing about the woman with the toddler in the trolley waiting at the kiosk to buy fags? Perhaps they’ll hand out blindfolds.