In My Opinion

Dita De Boni is a Herald business columnist

Dita De Boni: Guardians at the superette

33 comments
Opening all hours isn't enough; dairies must now be 'morally conscious' as well

File photo / APN
File photo / APN

The family who run our local dairy are a lovely bunch who appear to work sunup to sundown, servicing the needs of the people of Three Kings.

Granted, there seem to be cousins, family friends and at times even grandparents helping out, but goodness knows, with margins the way they are these days, a dairy owner needs all the pro bono help he or she can get.

My father owned a dairy for several years, so I am familiar with the amount of grunt work involved in this business; the sheer physicality of it, not to mention the endless meet and greet with locals - many friendly, some not.

And then the endless stream of shoplifters, loonies and drunks that pepper the long days of commerce.

If that wasn't enough, I can only imagine everyone at the superette uttering "for the love of Vishnu!" or some other Hindu-flavoured grumble if they heard about the latest appeal to retailers from the Upper Hutt City Council, asking them to recognise the signs of solvent abuse in young customers.

The council didn't just issue this appeal - it also sent out council reps to train retailers on the warning signs they should be watching for: young people who appear to buy lots of nail polish remover, paint thinners, or even excessive amounts of deodorant spray, for example.

Further, they are asked to be "morally conscious" of whom they sell these products to.

To be sure, none of us wants to see anyone endangering their health - and young people have died on their first encounter with solvents, so it is a serious issue and the council is to be commended for doing something.

But I wonder if asking poor, put-upon retailers to be the moral vanguard against solvents is entirely fair.

Already, dairies and small retailers are asked to be "morally responsible" for a whole lot of things they sell - things that are perfectly legal.

They are exhorted to avoid selling too many cans of paint to "certain people" to avoid fuelling graffiti.

They are allowed to sell legal highs - could even make quite a bit of money out of it - but are pressured not to by community groups.

Cigarettes are now sold like porn used to be - wrapped up, indistinguishable, or plastered with warnings, despite being completely legal. (Porn, on the other hand, seems to be more visible than ever.)

The need to be "morally conscious" extends to pharmacies, where customers buying certain painkillers still have to sign a poisons register, and unless you hack all over the poor pharmacy assistant, you will be asked to pledge your first-born before being allowed to purchase a pack of themost effective flu remedy.

It's fair enough to ask that our shop owners show a bit of judgment in their transactions, but is it fair that they have to plug the gap between society at large and legislation that doesn't cover all the bases - or between the general public and negligent parents?

That seems a little too much to expect of people like those running our local dairy, who I'm sure have barely enough time in the day to sit down, let alone pitching in free of charge to police the nation's errant youth.

- NZ Herald

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