A small incident – a larger truth

A small incident reveals a larger truth. Last month, a family connection, a 17 year-old, started her first job in the local Morrisons Supermarket, a major supermarket chain, in Totnes, Devon, UK. She worked in the cafeteria.

A customer ordered a sandwich but received the wrong one. So he sent it back and suggested to the teenage employee of three weeks that rather than throw the sandwich away, she should eat it. In the kitchen, she took a single bite at the moment the manager walked in. He suspended her.


She was sent a letter to inform her that there would be a hearing for gross misconduct for taking Morrison’s property without paying for it and that meant that she faced dismissal. The dismissal would go on her record if Morrison’s were approached by another company requiring a reference for the teenager. The letter did not state she took a bite out of sandwich destined to be thrown away. Without knowing these facts, you would assume that the young woman stole property from the supermarket. After talking with the family, the teenager resigned rather than risk a blot on her future employment opportunities.

I heard later that some weeks before the chef in the same kitchen got fired for tasting the food he was cooking. The rules state the chef must follow the prescribed recipe. With the virtual castration of unions in the past generation, employers and their lawyers have written up rule books to ensure that employees submit to the rules of the company down to the last detail. If the manager had a little compassion, he would have given a gentle warning to the teenager instead of putting her and her family through a stressful situation.


Nothing must be allowed to interfere with the determination of the corporation to maximise profits and expand its share of the market. When a young person takes a bite out of a sandwich, she literally eats into profits of the company. That makes her a threat to corporate aims. So threaten her with dismissil. After her resignation, the manager said she was a pleasant girl and liked by the staff. Such sugar coated statements hides the cold, hard and unnecessary treatment of a young employee. It is not an isolated incident. Employees are disposable. Like the sandwiches of Morrisons.

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