Are you a foreigner? You can't buy our booze, say Waitrose

Yesterday, avid Bitterwallet reader Torunn popped into the Newcastle branch of Waitrose to buy groceries and also - whisper it - a little booze. Initially flattered that she was being asked for ID before she could purchase the alcohol, the 30 year-old Norwegian produced her driver's licence.

Surprisingly, the staff refused to accept her identification and after arguing the point, Torunn had no choice but to leave the store empty-handed. She took the fight to Waitrose on Twitter, only to be told:

Bitterwallet - Waitrose refuse to serve foreigners

The issue wasn't that the staff believed the ID to be a fake, but that it's store policy to refuse all forms of ID from outside the UK.

The reason for this policy according to Waitrose is that 'it is very difficult for all of our staff to be aware of the varying types of ID provided by different countries'. Not even a foreign passport will be accepted by Waitrose staff which, if we're arse-baringly honest about it, is ludicrous - who in their right mind would forge a passport to buy alcohol?

The bottom line is that any foreign national or overseas visitor challenged about their age (so that's everyone who might look younger than 25) can't buy booze in Waitrose, because they can't provide any form of identification that Waitrose will accept. The only option is to apply for a UK Citizen Card, which Waitrose have graciously said they will accept. Unfortunately, that costs between £15 and £30 and impractical for tourists.

Sorry foreign chums, you'll have to sack off the pretensions and head back to Tesco.


  • England
    So if the cashier hears someone speaking with a German or French accent that wants to buy alcohol, no matter what their age, they could ask them for proof of their age, then refuse to serve them based on lack of UK ID? What an excellent idea.
  • Robert M.
    Bastards, i'll have to go to M&S for my champagne now.
  • Nick
    I work at Sainsbury's and we don't accept foreign ID's either. Although I couldn't give a sh*t & accept them anyway! Don't see what's wrong with a foreign ID!
  • PokeHerPete
    Thats brilliant, now why don't we actually do that at passport control.
  • Whisky
    So?? This is England (or at least suppose to be) don't like it then sod off back to your own country for booze, it's likely cheaper then here anyway. Bring me some back please.
  • Marky M.
    Lovely irony that Waitrose won't recognise foreign ID and yet the foreign spelling of "license" is acceptable. Perhaps the writer was drunk?
  • Nick T.
    On holiday in New York last year I was refused a beer in TGI Friday's (I know, I know...) because I DIDN'T have my passport for ID. I'm 51.
  • Joff
    Whisky, booze was expensive when I was last in Norway so it was probably cheaper for Torunn to come to the UK and get tanked up.
  • Johnny F.
    Coming over here, buying our booze...
  • kalida j.
    why dont they just f off back to there own country.
  • Andrew
    I was once refused alcohol at a store in the USA even after I'd produced my (UK) passport. Generally, though, I had no problem at many other places around the country.
  • qwertyuiop
    Kalida, that's a painfully ironic thing to say. Please shoot yourself in the face. Thanks.
  • Grammar M.
    Yes Kalida, that is an awful thing to write. It is "back to THEIR own country" not "back to THERE own country". Ffs man. Tut, huff, groan...
  • Whisky
    @Joff I was trying to be ironically sarcastic. Not sure it worked, the sarcastic sterotyping of foreigners in general may have been lost. I did know alcohol is actually quite pricey in Scandinavia.
  • Jaikel K.
    I agree with Kalida, why dont there just f off out of this country!
  • Rob
    If you're resident here as a foreigner (as I am), it's fairly trivial (in fact required after a year) to get a UK issued driving licence.
  • Liz
    I think the point some f you are missing would be for overseas tourists. They bring money into the country and it isn't unreasonable that they might want to buy alcohol while they are here. I can't imagine being very amused if when I was in Italy on holiday I couldn't buy wine because I didn't have Italian ID - that's the sort of thing this boils down to. Stupid. I did think that Waitrose were brighter than that.
  • Nobby
    > Rob. If you’re resident here as a foreigner (as I am), it’s fairly trivial (in fact required after a year) to get a UK issued driving licence. It is not a requirement after a year. Only if you drive.
  • Henry
    I wonder if Waitrose in Dubai sells booze?
  • Luton
    Rob - the £20 fee for a UK driving licence isn't trivial.
  • Mr S.
    Old news, and this policy is not unique to Waitrose - similar incidents have occurred at Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury's, as documented on that thing that you never use for your research called the internet.
  • Paul C.
    I have to inform you that all major retailers will apply the 'Challenge 25' ethos. If you look 25 or under you will be asked for ID regardless of whether you pull your waistband down and proclaim that you are now pubic. M&S will only accept a UK Passport, Uk Photo Drivers License or the 'PASS' Accredited card. And also Trading Standards are out in force sending youngsters into major retailers to catch them out over the festive season so I'd side with Waitrose on this occasion - the fines imposed for underage selling are actually accountable for the EMPLOYEE not the EMPLOYER - so a member of staff would end up with a fine and the Licensee's License could be withdrawn which would be disasterous for a chain supermarket.
  • Royal A.
    When I was in Saudi Arabia, I wasn't allowed to buy alcohol either! Reap what you sow bitches!
  • Andrew C.
    Anyone visiting or living in the UK or Ireland can apply for a CitizenCard - nationality is not relevant. Our standard charge is £15 but if anyone reading this thread wants a card they can get one for £10 until 31 December 2010 by printing off the standard application form from and posting the form and photos to: CitizenCard (Bitter Wallet Offer), 36 Bromells Road, London SW4 0BG.
  • Alistair M.
    This is becoming more and more of a problem for me. It is not uncommon for me to get turned down by Asda. Tesco can be a problem but at least there you can ask for a second opinion, and there is often someone who can vouch for me there. Sainsbury's is interesting as if you ask for a second opinion they seem to make there mind up on your age by looking at what else you are buying. Asda are by far the worse and even have this as an automated option on there complains system for complaints about this. I am twice the legal age to be able to buy alcohol and my driving licence is so old it does not have a photo on it. They will not serve me and when I asked about other ID they told me I could get it by asking at my school. I suspect they were not really listening when I told them my age. For reference I object to paying for and carrying ID to buy alcohol and if I need some I will go to a store where I know there is not going to be a problem. I have both moaned and complained about this but no one seems to want to address the issue or cares. It all comes down to the fact that there are misguided organisations pushing more and more to make alcohol harder for children to buy somehow thinking that is is stopping them from getting and drinking alcohol. With that in mind perhaps we need to start an organisation with the aim of gaining political influence and trying to be more on the side of common sense and human rights rather than behaving like we live in a Nazi state. Who is in?
  • delrio
    er alistair, weren't you supposed to have upgraded to a driving licence WITH a photo by now
  • Mr S.
    @Andrew Chevis: You've got some bloody cheek.
  • Alistair M.
    No Delrio, I was not. If I did optionally upgrade it then I would need to renew it every decade, but if I don't need to then I don't need to do anything until I am 70. It is in fact another reason why I don't want to have it changed.
  • Fay
    I was denied buying a bottle of wine at Morrisons in Paisley, Scotland (I'm 24) they said they weren't able to identify foreign passports?! I'm from The Netherlands. Isn't that against the law to refuse legal, valid EU identity? I was absolutely outraged. UK people are allowed to buy anything but foreigners aren't allowed to buy certain items because of the stores staff incompetence? I consider that discrimination and against human rights (Again against the law). Foreigners with legal identification should have the same right of service as British people (Especially from other EU countries).
  • marta
    That's great. So EU nationals can enter England, work here (usually more than the English) and live here without having to register anywhere. But if they are lucky enough to look under 21, bad luck. We can't even buy a bottle of beer after a hard day's work, just because the English are so highly ignorant, they can't even read a foreign ID (which, by the way, all have English translations on them). It's outrageous, as IDs get scanned at the borders, and if they were fake, we obviously wouldn't be let into the country. Well done, this country is just ridiculous, I see teenage children drunk every day, but adults are refused to buy just one drink.
  • Hazel
    I totally agree with you Fay and Marta... I am 28 and have just been refused to buy a bottle of wine in Waitrose, despite showing my EU Irish passport as I.D, because 'it is too hard for our (idiot) staff to read foreign, even EU I.D's' ....what a joke! This is the first time in 3 years of living and working here that I have witnessed such outright discrimination and ignorance. It is OK for EU nationals to work here in establishments such as Waitrose etc. pay tax, and contribute to England’s economy....but God forbid they should want to have a civilised and well-earned drink on a Saturday evening... which is understandable when we having to live and work among such ignorant, small minded people as those who posted above saying 'F off back to your own country'! In such a multi-cultural society, it is baffling that this practise continues today, and if anything it should be displayed clearly outside the shop, or in the alcohol aisle, to save decent people the unnecessary humiliation and embarrassment of being refused to purchase alcohol. I believe this is a violation of human rights. How would British people feel if refused buying alcohol when they are over EU countries disgracing themselves as usual??!! Maybe that is what we should might keep all you ignoramuses out!
  • Alexandra
    Marta, Fay fantastic conclusion! I'm 22 from European Union. Today was my LAST TIME I've visited the Waitrose, after being refused in purchasing rise wine for cooking in Waitrose Nottingham, after being a loyal customer for 4 years. And I asked to talk to manager. And when the manager came he allowed me to buy just because of his current presence in the shop. However, he clarify that next time it will be impossible to purchase any alcohol. I was surprise that my ID allows me to travel around the world ,but prevent Waitrose to sell me some cooking wine. I also asked the manager: "Does it mean that you are refusing to provide any service hundreds of thousands foreign visitors of your country?" the reply was: "YES!" I have never met so much arrogance and lack of sympathy to a customer in a manager of any shop! What is it? 1) Waitrose' Discrimination? 2) Waitrose' Incompetence? 3) Waitrose Illegal actions? And who is going to replace and pay for the feeling of humiliation and embarrassment in Waitrose? PLEASE HELP!
  • Pica
    Whos country is this? The slaves? Why are they selling foreign beer when i cant buy it,its from my country,im not buying english drinks anyway,nazi policies P.s. kalida sounds very english im sure they dont serve you either so why such a hate
  • Lauren M.
    Glad to find out I'm not the only one this has happened to... After a year of buying wine and groceries at my local Waitrose without incident, a supervisor (who in all honesty looked younger than I am) refused to accept my American passport as ID. I was reprimanded and made to feel like some sort of petty criminal for trying to buy a single bottle of wine at the age of 25. It's absolutely mind-blowing to me that they would fail to make such a policy clear from the outset. If I can legally live and study in this country with my passport as adequate proof of identity, how is it possible that I can't buy alcohol?? I wish that I hadn't been giving Waitrose my business for so long. I certainly won't be going back.
  • sam n.
    This happened to a friend of mine in Waitrose last year. I took him to CAB to inquire and they informed us that it is illegal to refuse to sell someone alcohol based on there nationality, it's called discrimination. we received an official letter of apology and a considerable amount of money. I strongly advise anyone to do the same.
  • MICHAEL p.
    To every young-looking foreigner trying to buy alcohol in a supermarket , Sainsbury's do accept national ID cards as proof-of-age.

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