TESCO officials were told they would have to keep a written record of underage shoppers trying to buy alcohol at their new Hereford 'Express' store if they want a licence.
However Tesco representatives at a licensing meeting on Tuesday said that soon this may not be necessary - with facial recognition technology moving towards store cameras that can identify habitual offenders.
Tesco already work with police and keep a ‘rogues gallery’ of images at each of its premises, to help staff identify frequent troublemakers and youngsters who have previously attempted to buy alcohol.
Its tills also lock up any time a cashier tries to ring up an alcoholic product, prompting them to ‘Think 25’ and ask for ID if the customer looks under that age.
However the major supermarket chain was told it would need a more old-fashioned approach if it wanted a licence for its new 'Express' store on Whitecross Road.
Chairing the licensing committee meeting, councillor Alan Seldon insisted that a written record was kept in the store, detailing all instances where an underage person was refused service.
He said: “Protecting children from harm has to be at the core of what we do – so we need to use all the tools in our arsenal.
“Using local knowledge, we know that the area has a higher number than usual of young people that could be vulnerable to alcohol sales.”
After six months both Tesco and the committee will review the use of a written record, and if it hasn’t proved to help in preventing alcohol sales to minors, the condition may be lifted.
Speaking on behalf of the police, Jim Mooney said: “I can’t understand why it is such a sticking point.”
Tesco already has five stores in the county, and Jeremy Bark, representing the supermarket chain, said it already conducts ‘mystery shopper’ checks every three months, including using teenagers to buy alcohol.
Following the company’s own trials, Mr Bark said that in terms of preventing crime, keeping a written record adds nothing to the systems Tesco already has in place.
He said: “It is not Tesco being bloody-minded or belligerent. This adds no benefit to the excellent Tesco systems.”
He added that when Tesco stores have failed ‘test purchases’ – where a licensing authority sends an underage person in to a store or bar to see whether they are challenged when trying to buy alcohol – it was down to human error.
Mr Bark also said its stores aim to build good relationships with local police officers.
“We meet with PCSOs two or three times a week,” he said.
“We semi-bride them – we give them free tea and coffee and let them use our bathrooms – and it helps facilitate that communication.”