Staff face Catch-22 over ID

Retailers live in fear of failing test purchases but two-thirds have been verbally abused when asking for ID, a poll by shop workers’ union Usdaw has revealed.

Sixty-five per cent of shop workers have been subjected to verbal abuse because they have asked for ID, while 16% have been threatened with violence and 2% have been physically assaulted, the survey found.

But 70% of shop workers are worried about facing a criminal prosecution if they get a decision about age-related sales wrong, and 60% are concerned they will be disciplined by their employer.

The results came shortly after another Usdaw poll found that over a million shop workers have been assaulted, threatened or abused over the past year, with around 43% of all those incidents resulting from retailers asking for ID or refusing to sell an age-related product.

Usdaw said that moving from a Think 21 to a Think 25 policy on under-age sales has greatly increased the danger of abuse by widening the number of people routinely challenged for ID.

General secretary John Hannett said: “Age-restricted sales are a minefield for our members. If they make a mistake and sell alcohol to a customer under 18 they risk being prosecuted. If they fail to ask for age identification from somebody under 25, they run the risk of being disciplined for not following company policy.

“On the other hand, asking for age identification often leads to abuse and a refusal of a sale can be a real flashpoint for threats – or even violence. As one anonymous member said, ‘We’re damned if we ask for ID, damned if we don’t’.”?Usdaw has called on the government to raise awareness of age-restricted sales and to make it a crime for an under-age person to buy any age-restricted product, not just alcohol.