This is not just any kerfuffle, it’s an M&S one

The Grand Dame of the British high street has had its fair share of problems over recent years, mostly revolving around lacklustre sales of its womenswear, but on Sunday it found itself at the eye of a storm about what goods its cashiers will or won’t handle.

As first reported by the Torygraph on Saturday evening:

Muslim staff working for Marks & Spencer have been given permission to refuse to serve customers buying alcohol or pork products.

I will not profess to be an expert but my understanding was that they are not supposed to consume said items and that there was nothing about handling packaging which may container the verboten produce.

If this were an official policy for checkout staff then I see a passing bandwagon for other groups to jump on, viz:

  • Jews: pork products & shellfish
  • Vegetarians: meat products
  • Teetotalers and recovering alcoholics: booze
  • Non- and anti-smokers: tobacco products
  • Misandrists: men
  • Misogynists: women
  • Racists: people of other skin tones

And so on for as many silly situations that you can think of*.

Obviously such a range of policies would need to be indicated to the customer so instead of the ’10 items of fewer’ sign, there will have to be an electronic display above each aisle with symbols indicating what the cashier won’t deign to touch.

Imagine the chaos – especially when someone misreads or ignores the sign.

Yes, OK, I’ve gone a bit reductio ad absurdum and there is, of course, a simpler solution: either tell the member of staff not to be so daft (which would no doubt land you in front of an employment tribunal on charges of ‘discrimination’) or put them to work in a different department (easier for a large corporate entity than a cornershop).**

By Sunday evening, M&S had backtracked saying:

“…it works closely with employees with specific beliefs that restrict what food or drink they can handle, but on this occasion it had to ‘regret’ that it had not followed its own guidelines.

“Where we have an employee whose religious beliefs restrict food or drink they can handle, we work closely with our member of staff to place them in suitable role, such as in our clothing department or bakery in foods.

“We regret that in the case highlighted today we were not following our own internal policy.”

No doubt said employee’s manager will be getting an earful – if they haven’t already.

*Matt Syson on the Boycott Marks and Spencer pushes beyond absurdity into stupidity though by asking if workers who wish to refuse the sale of ladies garments to male homosexuals or men’s trousers to lesbians will be tolerated. Quite how you can work out whether the customer is gay or lesbian whilst you are selling them goods is a mystery to me but if Matt can then Kuwait would like to hear from him.

**I’m ignoring the third option of ‘not working for a company which sells products you have a problem with’ since that requires people to take some responsibility for themselves – and I’m almost certain that such a thing is illegal these days.


  1. Furor Teutonicus says:

    I do not want moslem scum handling my food any way. We have all herard about how they refuse to wash their hands after taking a shit, and THAT was nursing staff!

  2. john77 says:

    We should recognise that some people have more delicate sensibilities than others (the refusal to handle pork or alcohol is vaguely comparable to some early Christians’ refusal to eat food that had been offered to idols about which St Paul wrote at some length). So it is perfectly plausible that some Muslims just cannot handle pork or alcohol.
    What astonishes me is that the individual did not realise that M&S sold pork and alcohol and ask not to be put on a general till: it is not just the manager who deserves an earful.
    re ** If it was just or mostly a question of pork then a young Muslim might reasonably have expected a Jewish-led firm like M&S to be a safe place to work.

    • Furor Teutonicus says:

      XX So it is perfectly plausible that some Muslims just cannot handle pork or alcohol.XX

      Then they are not suitable for the job and should be sacked immediately.

      • john77 says:

        They are not suitable for check-out duties – so they *should not have been hired for check-out duties* – which does *not* mean that they are unsuitable for the job for which there were actually hired.
        They should only “be sacked immediately” if they lied in order to get a job that they could not do.

        • Furor Teutonicus says:

          From my experience of such shops in both U.K and heer in Germany, you work for them, you are expected to do any job within that shop for which you are experienced/qualified. Clothing today, food hall cashier tomorow.

          • john77 says:

            @ Furor Teutonicus
            That’s not how in works round here: my local Tesco has separate teams for bakery, fruit and veg, delicatessen (cold meat and cheese), fish, cashiers, customer service etc.; the bigger ones have separate staff for clothing, electricals as well. M&S is upmarket and customers expect the staff to have some specialist knowledge of the products they sell.

  3. Furor Teutonicus says:

    Pleanty of places they could “safely” work in the sand nigger lands.

  4. “Where we have an employee whose religious beliefs restrict food or drink they can handle, we work closely with our member of staff to place them in suitable role, such as in our clothing department…”

    I look forward to a similar furore in an M&S clothing store, when the Muslim concerned refuses to sell women anything other than a full-length sack with eye-holes cut into it…


  5. Ed P says:

    There was some woman at the airport a few years ago with a cross around her neck which caused a similarly insignificant furore about the split between workplace attire and personal beliefs. ‘think she was allowed it as long as it was underneath her clothing – a LibDem sort-of solution to a non-problem. So what are M&S up to? This whole confection smacks of premeditated rabble-rousing to me. Although in defence of these “sensitive” people, I’m not keen on touching the new-style plastic pouches containing chicken fillets in my shop. Whilst I’m sure they are hygienic, the previous packets allowed one to handle them without feeling the contents. Now just imagine if the squishy envelope contains some anaethema? Urrgh.
    So what’s the real agenda here? Is it just another small step in the “softening of attitude project” adopted by our friends CP?

    • john77 says:

      Not actually comparable: that was not someone refusing to do the job to which they were allocated, but claiming a right to continue acting as she had done since starting the job. Some ultra-PC manager decided to forbid the cross allegedly in case it offended Muslims who would not be offended anyhow. When I lived in central London, there was a shortage of places in CofE-affiliated schools due to the demand from Muslims who preferred CofE schools to the aggressively atheist ILEA (by then post-ILEA) state non-voluntary-aided schools. [Yes, there usually was enough places for genuine Christians and Muslims since earlier generations of Christians had built schools for a higher housing density, but some agnostics wanted to send their children to these schools because they expected them to provide a better education].

  6. Gildas says:

    I have determined to boycott M & S. I think that says it all.

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