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It’s a tough area which has too much underage drinking and take a very responsible attitude to our role when selling alcohol, cigarettes and the lottery. We also have signed up to a voluntary code of practice for products that can cause problems with young people such as energy drinks like Red Bull or products in the household range such as spray cans. We do this because we believe what happens out in the community after we have sold a product reflects directly back on us if it causes people problems.
We started with how we drew up our store’s age restricted goods policies. This was created with the support of the local trading standards department. We needed to know that we were doing the right things to match the regulations. Our policy is designed to protect our staff, our store, our customers, my wife, our family and myself.
As this is an important area of our business we don’t rush staff training. It normally takes us 2 months to bring new staff up to a level of knowledge about all the issues before we allow them to serve customers. There is a wide range of products that are affected, but here our EPOS tills help by flagging up every item that we want our staff to check the customer is old enough. We need to know that our employees understand how to refuse a sale safely and then what to do to record the refusal.
There is also a problem in our community with ‘agent purchasing’; that is when an adult buys for someone who is underage. This is not an easy area for us to police ourselves, but here we bring technology to our aid. Our EPOS tills record each and every sale so we can prove a time for when items are sold. We have a Fingerprint Scanner that provides us with details about who made the purchase and we have CCTV to give a visual recording of the events. If the local Police are making enquiries we can always provide them with the evidence and a CD of the recording of the incident.
The finger print scanner works because customers have to be registered on to the system before we will sell any restrict products to them. Along with a fingerprint we record their name, address and date of birth. It’s just like having a club of of acceptable customers.
Our store is subjected to Trading Standards test purchasing and I am pleased to say that we have never failed. It’s good that our the local Trading Standards Department send us a letter when the tests have happened, it means that we can let our team know that they are doing a good job.
The ongoing training of our employees is important and we undertake this with weekly meetings with them, two at a time, when we informally have a discussion about all things that are happening in the store. These meeting regularly include age restricted product issues. We also have a staff notice board where we have a gallery of customers that have attempted to ‘breach our defenses’.
I am a member of the local Licensee Forum and attend its quarterly meetings along with 9 others including Sergeant Anderson of Strathclyde Police. This means that there is a positive two way communication about the problems that the police see and the ones that are seen at the member retailers’ shops.
I see many shops whose owners don’t see themselves as being part of the problem when it comes to alcohol misuse in their communities. My wife and I see our shop as being part of the solution because we know we can make a difference.