Marks & Spencer, that great old bastion of Britishness.
The place where you could go for a pork pie, a prawn sandwich, a bottle of Prosecco and a pair of tights.
A store so vanilla, user friendly and middle of the road that you could patiently wait in line to hand over your money and leave, happy in the knowledge that your purchases haven't caused religious upset or created intolerance.
Except that doesn't seem to be the case anymore.
Your prawns and your underwear have been happily scanned, processed and bagged but your processed pork and your bottle of Prosecco have caused an affront to religious sensibility, and however politely your purchases may have been refused and your payment rebuffed, you've crossed the line of political correctness.
Who knew a pork pie could cause such offence?
Marks and Spencer and their ever wanting need to be all things to all people have decided that any member of staff who is Muslim and does not wish to serve customers who are purchasing alcohol or anything 'porkish' can 'politely' refuse to do so.
It's terribly convenient that we've found this out a couple of days before Christmas because in affect, what M&S have succeeded in doing is to now make most of their customers begin to racially profile every cashier in their stores.
Anyone sat behind a till in a headscarf or with a hint of a beard is going to find that anyone with a fondness for a Bucks Fizz or a Percy Pig is not going to want to approach them. Nobody wants to wait in line on Christmas Eve with a shopping cart full of food only to have their mixed nuts handled and bagged but have their gammon and bottle of vodka never make it past the 'next customer please' block.
Let's face it, the majority of M&S customers are middle aged and upward.
They have enough to worry about without judging what the reaction of the cashier is going to be once they've placed a packet of breaded ham in front of them.
This is the company that has used Dame Helen Mirren and Helena Bonham Carter in their advertising. Both fabulous, glamorous, earthy women who look like they wouldn't be adverse to knocking back a shot of tequila or snacking on 'pigs in blankets' (google it if you don't know what they are) at Christmas time.
At a time when it seems that the only thing Marks & Spencer can do right is to keep their food hall busy and inviting, it looks like this could be the final kick in the teeth for their loyal customer. M&S is a high street store. It's not Fortnum & Mason but then again it's hardly Iceland either. Some people see M&S food as a necessity, others a luxury, so it's hardly the correct message to send out to the myriad of Daily Mail readers who buy their clothes there, that the next time they fancy a bottle of gin or a BLT they may not pass go, get passed the velvet rope or even get to pay 5 pence for a carrier bag.
It seems to me to be political correctness and fear of religious upset gone mad.
If I didn't want to handle or sell pornography, I wouldn't get a job in a sex shop and if I didn't get to get my hands dirty or covered in oil, I wouldn't go and work as mechanic. I've never been refused a pack of condoms by a cashier in Boots because they were Catholic and I've never been refused a cream cake in Greggs because the girl behind the counter may have thought I looked like I could do with losing a few pounds.
No one has the right to refuse to help or serve someone because their religion denotes what others should put in their shopping basket, trolley or mouth. A Marks & Spencer food hall is not a place to breed religious or racial intolerance. It's a place to wander around and manhandle some meringues, touch the tangerines and make the cartons of milk 'shake'.
I have shopped in M&S for the past twenty-five years. There are so many things in their food range that I simply love, but for me, and judging by the reaction on social media regarding whom their staff may or may not want to serve, the only thing their food range has left in many peoples mouth is a rather nasty taste.
And one we may not won't want to sample again.
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