A customer has been barred from buying a sandwich and a soft drink for a homeless man by a Coffee Costa barista.
Adrian Pinsent attempted to buy food for him in Waterloo station but was rebuffed by a member of staff at the second largest coffeehouse chain worldwide. Footage shows the barista falsely claiming they would be “prosecuted” if they sold him the snack because it went against station “policy”.
In the wake of the incident, Network Rail, which manages Waterloo station, and British Transport Police have made it clear they have no such a policy in place.
In the clip, filmed by Mr Pinsent, the Costa member of staff can be heard saying: “I’m really sorry sir. I’m really, really sorry.”
The Costa server later says: “If we do that we will get prosecuted. It’s not our policy, it’s from the security of the station and the police.”
The baristas were aware he was purchasing for the man in question because he had taken him into the shop to select the food.
Mr Pinsent says the response to his simple act of kindness is “unbelievable” before leaving ten pounds on the shop counter and saying he is going to leave with the food regardless.
Mr Pinsent, a TV cameraman from Walton-on-Thames, said: “It was an utter disgrace.”
“I asked (the homeless man) to pick what he wanted, a sarnie and a Pepsi, and when I tried to pay for it, they refused,” he continued. “This argument went on for some time before I filmed the video.”
“I was amazed. As a cameraman and journalist myself, I know that the idea of Costa being prosecuted by either the police or station security as the barista says is utterly wrong.”
A spokeswoman for Costa said: “We do not have a policy that restricts customers purchasing food for anyone who is homeless.
“We believe the store was given misinformation, which has now been corrected.”
A spokesman for Network Rail said: “We do not have a policy against passengers buying food in our stations and giving the food to anyone who is homeless.
“We will be asking our retailers to remind their staff of this, so we can avoid any incidents such as this in the future.”
British Transport Police said they would not prosecute anyone for buying food for a homeless person.
While it is of course not illegal to buy a homeless person food, it has been widely argued the homeless community has been subject to increasing criminalisation in recent years. The combination of archaic vagrancy laws and the more recent Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) have led to people with no fixed abode being punished.