A scheme likely to make a mark

19 September, 2008

Q We sometimes read about "bottle marking" initiatives to deter under-age drinking. How exactly do these schemes work and are they broadly beneficial for responsible retailers?

A The idea is simply that bottles likely to be of interest to younger customers are marked with permanent ink, with an identifying code, so that if alcohol is seized from an under-age drinker the police will be able to see where it came from.

One such project has recently been launched in the Norden area of Rochdale . It's a voluntary scheme which just a couple of off-licences have signed up to. If police come across young drinkers they will pass on details of marked bottles to Trading Standards. Any discarded bottles found in public places will, it is suggested, be picked up by street cleaners and reported.

Chief Trading Standards officer Andy Glover says: "This is an innovative scheme designed to tackle an issue of real public concern. We'll be monitoring the scheme over the coming weeks and would urge the local community to tell us about under-age drinking or locations where there are discarded alcohol bottles."

Retailers may rightly say that once they have sold a bottle of alcohol, they have little control over where it ends up ; there is nothing to stop a 19


old buying cider and sharing it with younger friends. But police and Trading Standards can at least start to build up a picture of under-age drinkers' sources of alcohol and work with retailers to make sure

"proxy purchases" - where adults buy on behalf of children - can be identified.

By getting involved in such a scheme, retailers can make a positive gesture towards solving local problems and

establish a

partnership with the authorities.

Q I want to help my staff understand how best to deal with aggressive customers who try to snatch stock or cash - or worse, attack them. What advice should I offer? I am conscious of the danger

of inflaming situations.

A The Home Office has published some guidelines for retailers

as this

stresses that an employee's wellbeing is worth more than your property. "If you find yourself in an aggressive or violent situation, don't take any risks - your personal safety comes first," it says.

It suggests that retailers:

Watch out for warning signs such as hostile body language

or nervousness

Avoid actions that may trigger violence such as standing too close to people, pointing, touching, turning your back, swearing or making sudden movements

Keep calm and behave


Keep your distance from threatening behaviour. Get behind the counter and don't get involved in an argument

Get help. Have arrangements to call for support and use them

Make a note of all incidents. Call the police if necessary

Remember the offender's distinguishing features.

It reminds retailers

not to raise the alarm until the raiders have left. Pushing a visible panic button is a controversial move, which ma y


the member of staff at risk of a panicked reaction from the criminal.

Finally, remember you have a right to refuse to let anyone who is acting criminally, or who is offensive, into your shop.

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