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Convenience Store Secret Shoppers

How can mystery shopping age checks help convenience stores?

Convenience stores sell a number of age restricted goods such as tobacco products, lottery tickets, over-the-counter drugs, fireworks and alcohol. Every convenience store owner needs to prevent young customers from accessing these age restricted products, or face large fines or even closure.

Centrebound can help ensure that your age check processes are being implemented. We do this through age check audits, test purchasing and mystery shopping.

Preventing underage sales

To ensure underage sales aren’t happening, convenience store owners need a system in place to check and verify customer ages. Many convenience stores operate a challenge 21 or challenge 25 policy in order to guard against underage sales. It is most commonly used for alcohol purchases but also applies to all other age restricted products.

It can be challenging for some staff members to determine whether a customer is over the age of 18, so having a policy of checking for higher ages covers a wider range and gives staff greater confidence in preventing underage sales. Checking that the customer has a valid ID if they appear underage and refusing service should be essential for your staff to know.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) launched a campaign to boost awareness of its Challenge25 scheme. The campaign aims to widen the use of Challenge25 for age restricted products beyond alcohol, and highlight Challenge25 to customers.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “Local shops have a fantastic track record of preventing underage sales and promoting responsible retailing, but much of the focus on this activity is often on alcohol. Through this campaign, we’re working with retailers to highlight the importance of a robust Challenge25 policy that empowers colleagues and is consistently applied for all age restricted products.”

The importance of carrying out test purchasing

With increased scrutiny by authorities and the media on the sale of specific items to those who are prohibited from purchasing them by age, it is essential convenience store owners are ensuring their age check policies such as Challenge 25, is being carried out correctly by their staff.

A recent report by ASH revealed 57% of school children who regularly vape are buying e-cigarettes from shops. Meanwhile test purchasing of national lottery tickets following the change in the minimum age of playing from 16 to 18, found 10% of stores weren’t checking ages properly.

Trading Standards carry out regular checks to ensure traders do not sell age restricted products to underage persons and operate a Responsible Retailer Scheme at assist traders to comply with these laws.

For convenience store owners caught selling age restricted goods to under age youngsters, the penalties change according to the product sold to the under age person:

  • Alcohol – The maximum penalty for allowing the sale of alcohol to a minor on licensed premises is a fine of £5000.
  • Cigarettes – If you sell cigarettes to any person under the age of 18 years, you could face a fine of up to £2,500. With E cigarettes and vaping liquids containing nicotine to any person below the age of 18 also carrying a fine of £2,500.
  • Cigarette lighter fuel – Selling cigarette lighter fuel or any cigarette lighter re-fill canister containing butane, or any other substance containing butane, to any person under the age of 18 comes with a  penalty of up to 6 months imprisonment, or a fine of £5,000, or both.
  • Party poppers / caps / cracker snaps – Selling party poppers, caps, cracker snaps, novelty matches to anyone under the age of 16 years carries a fine of up to £5000, imprisonment, or both.
  • Intoxicating solvents – Selling solvent based glue and aerosols to anyone under the age of 18 has a maximum penalty of up to 6 months imprisonment, or a fine of £5,000, or both.
  • Lottery tickets –  It is illegal to sell lottery tickets or scratch cards to a person under the age of 16. If you sell lottery or scratch cards to someone under 16 you may be fined up to £5000 and/or serve two years imprisonment.

How do I get age checks done to avoid being fined?

Centrebound can ensure your staff are carrying out age checks and asking for valid ID in accordance with your age check process. We can provide 16- 21 year olds to carry out mystery shopping test purchases for age restricted goods such as lottery scratch cards, alcohol, e-cigarettes etc.

All our mystery shopping agents conducting an age-related audits will have had their age validated by Centrebound by either passport, birth certificate or PASS card from the national Proof of Age Standards Scheme.

Our test purchasing and mystery shopping services are available throughout the UK and Ireland.

Mystery shopping agents complete their audit survey within 24 hours of visiting a venue. Centrebound then quality check each report and share the results with the client within 48 hours.

If you would like age check test purchases for your convenience stores, please contact us.