Esso garage won't sell lager to 58-year-old

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Esso garage

Grey-haired 58-year-old Philip Lewis popped into the Esso garage in Midsomer Norton in Somerset, and decided to pick up some cans of lager. He didn't expect the staff to ask him for ID in order to prove his age, so he wasn't carrying any. He said he was stunned when staff informed him that without ID they wouldn't serve him.

And he's not alone.

The printer from Radstock in Somerset told the Bath Chronicle: "I could understand it if I was nearer 25 and looked that way, but I will be 59 in June. I don't carry my driving licence with me." He said there was a long queue behind him, and that he had been humiliated by the experience.

According to the Daily Mail, a spokesman for the garage said that he was sorry for the offence and inconvenience that had been caused. He added: "While we have strict rules concerning the sale of alcohol, it is clear they were applied with a little too much zeal on this occasion.We have advised the sales assistant accordingly, and will contact Mr Lewis to offer him a small gift as a goodwill gesture."

Your rights

The staff were technically within their rights. It's illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under the age of 18, and any stores that break the law can face fines of up to £20,000. The law also requires everyone who sells alcohol to have an age verification policy.

The minimum required is for the business to ask for ID from anyone who looks under 18 - which shows their photograph, date of birth and a holographic mark.

Nowadays by far the majority of retailers (including Esso) use a system of asking for ID from anyone who looks under the age of 25 (which came about as the result of a Challenge 25 scheme). However this isn't enshrined in legislation, it's just considered 'best practice'.

The member of staff may have gone far too far in checking the age of the purchaser, but they were under no obligation to sell him the alcohol, so were with their rights.

Not the first

It's not the first time age verification has gone awry. In May 2010 a 33-year-old father was refused a bottle of wine at his local Tesco in Bar Hill, because he didn't have ID. When his 29-year-old partner stepped in and showed her driving licence, the sales staff still refused to allow her to buy it on the grounds that she could be buying alcohol for a minor.

In 2007 it was the turn of a 72-year-old man from West Kirkby, who was told he couldn't buy two bottles of red wine from Morrisons because he refused to confirm that he was over 21. The grandfather argued that it was a stupid question, but the sales staff stuck with the rules and Morrisons confirmed that it was policy to ask everyone in that store.

But the title of the oldest person to be refused the chance to buy alcohol is shared between two 92-year-olds. The first is Tony Ball, a 92-year-old war veteran from Feltham. In November last year he was asked for ID when he was buying vodka in Tesco. When he was challenged he walked out. The supermarket confirmed that it was intended as a lighthearted comment, and that his bottles were waiting for him at the store with their compliments, but he insisted he wouldn't be back.

The second is 92-year-old great grandmother Diane Taylor, who was told she couldn't buy a bottle of whisky from her local One Stop Shop in Harlow. She produced her bus pass as proof of age, but was told she needed a driving licence or passport.