A MAN from Romsey is calling for Waitrose to retrain its staff after he was stopped and accused of stealing a coffee from the vending machine. 

Regular Waitrose shopper Martin Fielder says he was shocked when a staff member approached him as he left the store in Romsey town centre on January 29. 

Martin, a semi-retired expatriate, bought his shopping through a normal till, including selecting a hot drink - which MyWaitrose members get free with any purchase - before going to the vending machine. 

The machine was out of milk so he went to the other one near the alcohol section.

However, as he was exiting the store, he was approached by a duty manager who accused him of stealing the coffee and then refused to act on Martin's suggestion to check the cameras.

Martin had his receipt and after an exchange of words with the employee, he left the store. 

However, minutes later, further insult was added when Martin was approached by someone who asked him what had happened as they had witnessed the incident unfolding. 

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Martin said: "I walked around town for some time, considering what I had just experienced. On reflection, I accept I was actually in shock during this time. 

"During this walk, someone who had recognised me who had been at the self-service checkout area approached me in the street and asked me ‘what was that about in Waitrose, were they accusing you of stealing?’. 

"Of course, I had to embarrassingly admit that was the case and had to defend myself that the accusation had been wrong.

"The sense of humiliation which accompanied this was overwhelming. To have it confirmed in the street that indeed this slanderous defamation had been witnessed by members of the public has made this without exception the most degrading and humiliating scenario I have ever experienced." 

This prompted him to return to the store where he spoke to the staff member again, as the manager was on a day off.

Not happy with the responses he received, he said he wanted to talk with the store manager as soon as possible. 

Following a lengthy telephone call the next day, as well as Martin sending an email containing a full statement of fact of the incident, he believes the company did not take it seriously enough. 

A series of messages over a three-week period, in which Martin asked questions, requested details and requested Waitrose make some of its own suggestions, proved fruitless.

He felt the responses he received ignored all questions and requests and do not accept any responsibility or acknowledge what he is asking of them, part of which is to bring the member of staff in question to account. 

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Finally, he contacted the Romsey Advertiser in order to throw the spotlight on the issue. 

Waitrose representatives have now issued an apology - which he dismissed as 'empty and routine'. 

On deciding to escalate the complaint directly to Waitrose managing director, the firm offered him a £20 voucher, which he has refused. 

He said: "I never mentioned financial recompense, it doesn’t interest me, I only sought vindication." 

In response, Martin has now asked for Waitrose to donate £1,000 to two Romsey charities instead, which they have refused. 

Martin, who returned from living in Asia after Covid to watch over his elderly widowed mother, said he was especially keen to ensure that this kind of thing did not happen to anyone else, especially older or more vulnerable people.

He said: "This truly saddens me, I worked for them in the 80s and I expect Waitrose to be in the top level of customer service. I did not expect to be brushed off as an annoyance. To be offered a £20 voucher in regard to my integrity was so insulting." 

A spokesperson for Waitrose said the incident was a 'misunderstanding'.

They said: "We're very sorry to hear of Mr Fielder's experience, this is certainly not how we want our customers to feel when visiting our shops.

"This was a genuine misunderstanding and we've apologised to Mr Fielder directly, as well as providing him with a gesture of goodwill." 

However, Martin is still not happy - and he wants people to know about it. 

He said: "There was no misunderstanding here. It is my belief Waitrose acknowledged no responsibility as they understand they are legally liable in this instance!"