Customers mortified by refusal

Last updated 05:00 26/08/2014

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A Blenheim supermarket says it is well within its rights to refuse to sell alcohol to customers who might be under the influence of alcohol after a Blenheim couple were left mortified when they were refused service.

The couple, both 56, had been working in the garden on Friday when they went to Countdown Blenheim about 2.30pm to buy beer for the Marlborough Lines staff working at their property.

The man saw a work colleague and chatted with him before heading to the checkout.

The woman said her husband had an infectious laugh, and could be heard in the supermarket laughing with his mate.

"He laughs over anything," she said. "Everybody knows him for his laugh."

But when they went to buy their groceries and beer, the checkout operator asked her husband if he had been drinking.

"We hadn't had a drop," she said. "We'd been out in the garden all day, so we were probably a bit dirty looking, but we hadn't been drinking."

The checkout operator got her manager, who told the man he couldn't buy alcohol because his laugh made him sound intoxicated.

"We were just flabbergasted," his wife said. "We thought it was a big joke that went too far."

The couple regularly went to the supermarket as it was close to their home, and spent quite a lot of money there, she said.

"The manager refused us without talking to us," she said.

"She made up her mind that he'd been drinking and that was it."

The following day they returned to the supermarket and complained to the assistant store manager, who apologised and gave them a box of chocolates.

But a Countdown spokeswoman said Countdown's policy was to refuse the sale of alcohol if the customer was believed to be under the influence of alcohol.

"We take our legal responsibilities around the sale of alcohol very seriously," she said.

"Our policy is to refuse a sale where we believe customers may be under the influence of alcohol and we don't apologise for that policy because it's the right thing to do."

The team was trained and had to make a judgment call at the checkout, she said.

"We appreciate it might be frustrating for some customers if they are refused a sale but our first priority has to be ensuring alcohol is sold responsibly."

Countdown's policy on selling alcohol was more stringent than the law and every alcohol sale had to be authorised by a supervisor.

"Our duty manager has a manager's certificate, just like any other place serving alcohol," the spokeswoman said.

"There is a massive pressure on everyone who sells alcohol because it is a restricted product."

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- The Marlborough Express

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