'Crazy, bizarre': Supermarkets won't serve booze to adults with kids

Author
Meghan Lawrence, NZ Herald,
Section
National,
Publish Date
Friday, 6 July 2018, 1:25PM
Hundreds of people have contested current alcohol selling practices after reports of a mother being refused service because of her children. Photo / Natalie Slade
Hundreds of people have contested current alcohol selling practices after reports of a mother being refused service because of her children. Photo / Natalie Slade

Dozens more parents have shared tales of supermarkets refusing to sell them alcohol when their children are with them.

Yesterday the Herald told the story of a mother who was stopped from buying alcohol at a supermarket because she had her children with her. The resulting media attention led to Countdown NZ apologising to her for being "overcautious".

However, many others have come forward sharing similar stories and hundreds more have contested current selling practices.

Ken Emmens, of East Auckland, said he had a similar experience shopping at Countdown Highland Park with his 17-year-old daughter.

"We bought some booze - a box of beer and a couple of bottles of wine - plus other groceries and we got to the counter and they asked whether it was for my daughter, but I told them it was for me," the middle-aged father said.

"She looked at me and said they couldn't sell it to me because they weren't sure if it was for me or my daughter."

Emmens said the whole experience was frustrating and bizarre.

"It was crazy. So stupid. Who are they to decide who the alcohol is for?

"It was impossible to prove that the alcohol was for me and my wife and not my daughter, but they wouldn't relent," he said.

"I suppose they were being super cautious but where do they draw the line on what is exceptable for the kids age to be with you?"

Shoppers shared their tales in dozens of post on the Herald's Facebook page.

"I've been refused... my son's 14. I was refused when my 17-year-old nephew was standing behind me too. I've even been refused because my partner didn't have his ID.
It happens... no big deal," one said.

"I had a 10 second conversation with someone I bumped into while shopping at Countdown and was denied service 10 minutes later. I barely even knew the guy," another reader wrote.

In a similar vein another reader said: "Some supermarkets definitely take it too far. There was a young couple in the checkout line behind me at Pak n Save once and I got refused because the checkout lady thought they were with me. Even after both me and the couple said we don't even know each other - I still got refused! Stupid."

Not your kid? Not your call

So when it comes to buying alcohol with, or for your children, what are the laws?

NZ Alcohol Law states that it is illegal to supply alcohol to someone under the age of 18 unless the person supplying the alcohol is the parent or legal guardian and the alcohol is supplied in a responsible manner.

NZ Alcohol Law states that it is illegal to supply alcohol to someone under the age of 18 years unless the person supplying the alcohol is the parent or legal guardian. Photo / Dean Purcell
NZ Alcohol Law states that it is illegal to supply alcohol to someone under the age of 18 years unless the person supplying the alcohol is the parent or legal guardian. Photo / Dean Purcell

"Parent" means natural, adoptive or foster parent, while "Guardian" means a person who has all the duties, powers, rights and responsibilities that a parent has in bringing up their child, as detailed in the Care of Children Act 2004.

The only other legal ways to supply a minor with alcohol are if you have express consent from their parent or legal guardian; or the young person is married, in a civil union or living with a de facto partner.

Express consent may include a personal conversation, an email or a text message that you have good reason to believe is genuine.

Paul Radich, Countdown's alcohol responsibility manager, said the supermarket policy is that where there's a person in a group who looks under 25, and staff have reason to believe alcohol is going to be supplied to a minor, they reserve the right to ask for ID or to refuse the sale.

"Our team has to make a lot of judgment calls every day and we're always trying to get the right balance between adhering to the law and making sure customers can safely access the products they want at our stores," he said.

No proof of age = no sale

On the other side of Auckland, in Silverdale, 64-year-old Mark Burt was denied alcohol while shopping with his 27-year-old boarder.

"He pushed the trolley into the counter and was putting the goods, including wine and beer, on to the conveyor... when the supervisor then approached [him] asking for ID," Burt said.

"He is from Colombia and admittedly looks a little younger than his 27 years and said he didn't have it on him. I stated that he is 27-years-old and actually does not drink, smoke or do drugs of any kind.

"The supervisor then said they would not sell alcohol to us. I stated that it was purely for me. 'Not good enough' she said! I saw Red!"

Acceptable forms of ID are a HANZ 18+ identification card, a valid passport, and a NZ photographic driver's licence. Photo / Kelvin Teixeira
Acceptable forms of ID are a HANZ 18+ identification card, a valid passport, and a NZ photographic driver's licence. Photo / Kelvin Teixeira

The boarder was advised he needed to carry a passport, so the pair decided to leave the supermarket without their $270 worth of shopping.

"I then thought, no, I'm not going to waste another hour or two going to another supermarket so I returned and said that I would take the shopping only, which we did. I then returned without my boarder to re purchase my alcoholic goods.

"The supervisor approached me again stating that she would not sell me any alcohol as she believed I was going to supply my boarder with it! This really pissed me off! Other shoppers looked on in disbelief!" Burt said.

"It was totally absurd and ridiculous! Completely over the top. I was disgusted with this treatment."

While it is legal to buy alcohol over the age of 18, Progressive Enterprises Ltd Liquor and Tobacco Policy states if you have no legal documentation of proof of age, there will be no sale.

Acceptable forms of ID are a HANZ 18+ identification card, a valid passport, and a NZ photographic driver's licence.

FIRST Union secretary of retail Tali Williams said policies were different at different supermarket chains.

"However, our experience is generally that employees' jobs are at risk if they are found to have signed off on alcohol purchases which turn out to be minors or buying on behalf of minors.

"The matter is taken extremely seriously by supermarket chains because they face massive penalties if they are found in breach of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act," she said.

"Increasingly, more and more strict and stringent policies are placed on employees insuring only specialist trained employees are signing off on alcohol purchases, or supervisors.

"So customers should know it's not the employees trying to be difficult, it's that their jobs are at risk if they don't follow the correct procedures."

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