A longtime manager of a bakery was fired for “serious misconduct” for accepting cash from elderly customers without a bank card and using her own debit card to pay.
Megan Metcalfe, 60, had worked for Birds Bakery in Radcliffe-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, for 44 years and served as a store manager for 25 years until her dismissal.
The bakery chain, which has dozens of branches in the Midlands, is one of many companies that have imposed a card-only payment policy to minimize any risk to staff and customers during the coronavirus pandemic.
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But many of the customers who visited the business were elderly and did not have bank cards, Ms Metcalfe said. Nottinghamshire en direct.
Not wanting to turn them down, Ms Metcalfe paid for their goods using her own debit card, showed them their receipt, and asked elderly customers to put their cash payments in her purse.
She understood her actions were “against company policy,” but said there was “no way” that she could let her elderly clients “go away telling them they couldn’t buy it because they didn’t have a card ”.
Customers had already handled the items, which should have been “put away or cleaned,” she added.
Ms Metcalfe told the local news website that she took around £ 180 in cash and paid for it with her own card, and kept the transaction receipts.
But Birds fired Ms Metcalfe after learning of her actions and holding a disciplinary hearing.
“I was just trying to do the right thing,” she reportedly said. “I’m really upset by this, of course… I’ve been told I’m putting staff members’ lives in danger by doing what I’ve done.
She said the money never changed hands as customers would put it straight into her purse.
“I shouldn’t have done it, but I don’t like to let people down, and a lot of these clients depend on us, coming to see us every day. “
News of Ms Metcalfe’s sacking sparked a backlash against the company, with some pointing out that it was helping vulnerable customers buy essential groceries.
More than 6,000 people have signed a petition asking the company to reinstate her and arguing that kindness was not a “dismissal offense”.
The GMB union also condemned the company’s decision, calling it “scandalous”.
National Officer Roger Jenkins said in a statement: “The firing of a merchant for helping elderly customers without access to cashless payments is more than outrageous.
“But it illustrates the terrible damage that would be done to people’s lives if we allowed money to waste away and die.
“Besides the impact on the elderly and vulnerable, it would wreak havoc on small and medium-sized businesses that depend on cash transactions.”
Birds Bakery said it was aware of the petition, but noted that its card-only policy was put in place after an “overwhelming response” from their staff at the start of the pandemic, saying they preferred not to touch banknotes and coins.
In a statement, he added: “Our card-only policy should not be taken lightly. We take the safety of our staff and customers very seriously – and have very strict procedures in place during this continuing pandemic.
“We’re sorry that so many people are upset about Megan Metcalfe’s firing from Birds, but she violated our health and safety policy and we took it very seriously.
Birds said Ms Metcalfe would not be reinstated, but wished her well in her new working role at a care home.