Sainsbury’s won’t deliver the basic food I ordered for my student son

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My son is a first-year university student in Scotland, living in a hall of residence. Considering the Covid-related national emergency and the advice to avoid unnecessary travel, I started buying him a weekly online shop from Sainsbury’s at the start of the new term.

Everything was fine until two days ago. The driver from Sainsbury’s requested my son’s ID and refused to give him food on the basis he is not yet 18 (he is 17 years and 10 months). The shopping included milk, bread, vegetables, fruits and hummus; nothing was age restricted. We were shocked. Sainsbury’s seems to be the only major supermarket that places an age restriction on food deliveries. It confirmed this, and even implied that I broke the law by registering my account in my name (being over 18) and then changing it to his name.

Preventing a 17-year-old from receiving basic food supplies does not sit well with basic human rights. Surely this cannot be right?

LT, Cambridge

You are not the only parent with offspring at university or living elsewhere in the country who is keen to make sure they are eating well. But Sainsbury’s is not unusual in requiring online shoppers to be over 18 – in fact it is also the policy (if inevitably buried in terms and conditions) of Tesco, Asda and Morrisons.

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This is to ensure that age-restricted items such as alcohol, cigarettes, tobacco and even paracetamol do not end up in the hands of those underage. Supermarkets also have “Think 25” policies when delivering age-restricted items, so that if the person receiving the goods looks under 25, proof of age will be requested by the delivery driver.

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We sought clarification and Sainsbury’s says: “We have explained to LT that online deliveries must be received by people over the age of 18. Our drivers are also trained to follow our Think 25 policy. This is highlighted on our website and in our terms and conditions. We’re sorry for the inconvenience and disappointment this has caused.”

Although it seems bizarre that your son was challenged when his shopping did not contain any age-restricted items, apparently the driver has discretion to ask for proof of ID, regardless of the content (and presumably without rifling through all the bags).

Is there another way for well-meaning parents to help younger relatives? We gather you are now shopping for your son online with Tesco where there have not been any issues – so far.

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