sUPERMARKET giant Tesco was asked to appear before Clydesdale Licensing Board to explain how a 16-year-old was able to buy drink from its store in Lesmahagow.
At a special hearing of the board in Lanark on Thursday, a solicitor acting for the company explained how “an error of judgement” allowed the sale to go ahead – despite the extensive measures Tesco had put in place to prevent any such thing happening.
The incident which led to the hearing happened at the store at Wellburn Interchange on April 27.
A youngster recruited by police went into the store and purchased a bottle of wine via one of the automatic, self-service checkouts.
The system for alerting a member of staff that an attempted drinks sale was going through and so an age check would be required worked.
A sales assistant did go to the checkout but still manually approved the sale without asking the boy for proof of age.
Things didn’t get any better for Tesco when police then entered and asked to see the store’s training and drink sales refusal records and documents and were told by the deputy manager on duty that they were locked in the manager’s office and couldn’t be accessed.
Tesco’s solicitor began her defence of her employers by handing the board members each a thick file of documents, outlining the company’s training programmes and policies on prevention of alcohol sales to minors.
She then asked the board members to put the incident in context.
It had been the first such case since the store opened three years ago and it was handling “6000 alcohol transactions per week”.
She went on: “The sale was approved by an experienced member of staff who has been with the store since it opened.
“She was very distressed and could not explain why she did it.”
The solicitor added that the employee had not been sacked but issued with a final written warning.
In reaction to the incident, the already extensive retraining at the store had been stepped up and all employees at Lesmahagow issued with a personal letter from the manager, reminding them of their duty to be vigilant.
She went on to explain the fuilure to produce documents to the police as “a failure in communications” that could not be fully explained, adding that no actual record book had been kept of drink sales refusals because it was general company policy not to do so “as it is not thought to be of any benefit”.
However, since the incident, the Lesmahagow store had started keeping such a record book.
Summing up for the police, Sergeant Andy Macdonald satted: “Selling alcohol to persons under 16-years-old is a serious issue for a small shop or a large premises alike.”
The board decided to issue a written warning to Tesco but members will take no further action.