Couple refused alcohol - because they look under 30

AGE GAP: Darren Searle and Emma Down at the Co-operative store in Palmyra Road, Gosport.   Picture: Malcolm Wells (110446-349)
AGE GAP: Darren Searle and Emma Down at the Co-operative store in Palmyra Road, Gosport. Picture: Malcolm Wells (110446-349)
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A COUPLE were told by Co-op staff that they couldn’t buy a bottle of wine – because they looked under 30.

Emma Down, 32, and partner Darren Searle, 40, were left stunned after being told there was a new policy in place at the Co-operative shop in Palmyra Road, Elson, Gosport.

The shop, like all Co-ops, has signs up saying it operates a ‘Challenge 25’, meaning shoppers who do not look 25 must show ID to prove they are over 18 before buying alcohol. And staff were all wearing Challenge 25 badges.

The couple say a member of staff told them the policy had changed and the age requirement had been raised to 30.

Emma, from Sedgeley Grove in Gosport, said: ‘The whole thing was quite embarrassing. I am absolutely fuming about the service which I received. They were all wearing under 25 badges yet she said ‘I’ll ask if you look under 30’.

She said that’s the way they have been trained and it’s company policy. It’s ridiculous. I thought it was really stupid. I just think, 25 we are fine with but they pushed it up again to 30. It seemed to go up and up. It’s our local shop which we go to every single day. It will be a long time, if ever, we will use this or other Co-op stores again.’

Darren added: ‘We hadn’t gone in there to cause trouble. I don’t understand why they made such a big fuss of it. People say I don’t look my age, but I still look over the age of 25. It’s ridiculous.’

A spokesman for The Co-operative stores said the firm had not introduced a new policy and said it would investigate the couple’s complaint.

Phil Ponsonby, chief operating officer for food, retail and services, said: ‘At The Southern Co-operative we have a clear policy on alcohol sales, which is “Think 25”. If a colleague assesses the customer as under the age of 25 they are required to ask for appropriate ID.

‘We support this understanding with significant time investment, including awareness roadshows and signage.

‘We will look into any claims where it is suggested a store has adopted a different procedure, and where necessary reinforce the policy.’

What the law says

The law only requires that people must be over 18 to buy alcohol.

But supermarkets have brought in increasingly tough measures for fear of falling foul of strict licensing laws.

Those who are caught selling alcohol to under-18s face huge fines and can be banned from selling alcohol for a time.

As a result they often set their own age limits – and people who look younger than the limit must prove their age.

Asda, Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s all have a policy where anyone who looks younger than 25 will be asked to produce ID. Waitrose operates a ‘Think 21’ policy where anyone who looks under 21 will be asked for ID.