Waitrose deny 'racial profiling' in Milton Keynes store

70-year-old customer complains he was stopped by security guard because he is 'a person of colour'

Thursday, 17th June 2021, 7:27 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th June 2021, 7:30 pm

A 70-year-old man who was stopped by security guards at Waitrose has complained he was picked upon because of his race.

Imtiaz Farookhi from Newport Pagnell was stopped leaving the store in Oakgrove, Milton Keynes after paying for his groceries.

He said: "I am a 70 year old person of colour. We, my partner and I, live in Newport Pagnell and had gone to that store to pick up some groceries. After paying at the self service till, we were, in front of other shoppers, stopped from leaving the store and marched back to the tills."

Waitrose at Oakgrove
Waitrose at Oakgrove

The couple, who had chosen not to take a receipt when offered the option at the till, were eventually allowed to leave after Mr Farookhi asked to see a manager.

"An assistant manager appeared and explained that there had been a lot of theft at this store...I was told that we had been stopped from leaving the store because we had walked the wrong way out of the store after paying at till."

Mr Farookhi believes the explanation lacks credibility. "First it is the most rational choice of exit route for those paying at the end row of self service tills and secondly no other shopper using that route to exit was stopped," he said.

He told the Citizen: "I raised a complaint and an email correspondence with Waitrose customer service ensued in which very straightforward questions concerning why we were stopped, what the criteria were, how many others 'walking the wrong way' had been stopped, why if walking the wrong way was a marker for theft, there were no signs indicating the 'correct' way to exit the store."

"No answers were provided. Indeed in one of the emails apologising for my 'hurt feelings' ( implying that the problem was my sensitivity), I was urged to take part in a Waitrose marketing survey to win a voucher …to shop at Waitrose!"

He added: "Having not received satisfactory answers to reasonable questions from Waitrose ( which brands itself as ethical, inclusive etc) I am concerned that there is a policy of racial profiling at this store, it’s impact no doubt exacerbated by there being a lot of theft. However, that does not justify a seemingly arbitrary approach to profiling people of colour.

"It is not acceptable in 2021 to be profiled on this way and to not receive answers to reasonable questions from a corporate, particularly one that brands itself as progressive, inclusive , ethical etc."

In an email in response to Mr Farookhi 's complaint, Waitrose customer services department wrote: " The branch have reviewed your visit and you are the only one that left this way. The guards will stop anyone they see come from that direction. It really is as simple as that and we would not change it as we need to protect the store from theft."

The Citizen contacted Waitrose press office to ask for a comment on the incident.

A spokesman said: "We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind across our Partnership and this is something we take extremely seriously. As soon as Mr Farookhi's concerns were raised with us we investigated thoroughly, including reviewing CCTV, and have found no evidence to suggest any discrimination took place."

She added: "Nevertheless we understand that this would have been an unpleasant experience and we're very sorry for the upset this caused."