Tesco has stirred up a hornets' nest with its decision to confront adults it suspects of buying alcohol for their kids
Tesco's decision to challenge the sale of alcohol to adults they suspect of buying for the minors shopping with them is a bold move - and all eyes are on how it plays out. For a company that has so many touch points with its consumers, on an enviable number of levels - from mobile phones to the food in the fridge - it is brave to take a stance that could risk damaging what is, in the main, a trusted and lucrative retailer/shopper relationship.
Not surprisingly, the large retailers have taken a considered approach to issues around social responsibility and, ultimately, Tesco is merely reinforcing the legal position on proxy purchase and selling to under-age kids.
But the mixed reactions expressed by its customers on web forums suggest many feel the supermarket has over stepped the boundaries. By questioning the purchases parents make while accompanied by their children, Tesco has, for some, crossed into a moral dimension where they believe it has no place.
On the Daily Telegraph's forum Jenny posts: "How dare Tesco dictate how I bring up my children! MY decision, NOT theirs whether I give them alcohol." Paul sums up the mood further: "Just keep your mouth shut and give me my goddam alcohol."
Others who have been denied alcohol say they walked out in disgust, taking their business elsewhere. All this isn't to say that some customers have not voiced their support for Tesco, but it proves how difficult it is for retailers to safeguard themselves, and their customers, without being accused of overzealous interference.
Many consumers simply will not tolerate what they view as misplaced moral custodianship. In its attempt to do the right thing, Tesco has highlighted how a lack of legal awareness and limited health education mean many people are ignorant of the ramifications of buying alcohol for their children - a message retailers can clearly only go so far in communicating.
Since when has the government had the right to rule where we can and can't shop on the basis of our health? It might sound like nanny-statism gone insane, but under plans being considered in Liverpool, new licences and planning applications for on and off-trade businesses could be tested to assess their impact on the local community's health. Perhaps it's all part of the policy which is seeing so many hospitals forced to close. After all, statistics show we're far more likely to contract a potentially life-threatening disease there than anywhere else.