Melanie McDonagh Melanie McDonagh

The M&S pork and champagne row raises the matter of Sunday trading

In the Kensington M&S where I get my lunch – the delicatessen has a very decent pork pie or Scotch egg – the business of queuing is a matter for snap judgments…if there’s an empty till going with a human being on it (do I need to say why automated tills are a pain?) then you make for it before someone with a trolley does. So when I heard about the customer in a ‘central London’ M&S who got asked by the woman on the till to wait for someone else to serve her because of the champagne in her shopping, well, I had a kind of fellow feeling. What, start queuing again, if you’ve just managed to get served? The assistant was ‘very apologetic’ apparently, but it would take more than apologies to unruffle your feathers if you’re not served for having something in your shopping that the shop actually sells.

The fault of course lies with the retailer. If M&S hadn’t made clear to this Muslim assistant that serving on a till meant selling all the goods they’re offering they were at fault, and if the woman hadn’t made clear to management that she couldn’t sell pork or alcohol in clear conscience, then she should be put selling tights pronto. A vegetarian who spurned customers buying sausages would get pretty short shrift, I fancy. Other retailers have been pretty coy about their stance – all of them making clear that they’d work round their workers’ consciences – but Tesco has been probably the sanest, saying it would make ‘no sense’ to put someone on a till who couldn’t handle the things on sale.

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