Supermarket giant Morrisons has apologised after an 89-year-old poppy seller was left freezing outside and told he should ‘wear a warm coat’ rather than move into the store.
Bill Daw, a World War II veteran of the Burma Campaign, was spotted standing outside a branch of the store by customer Veronica Roach.
She felt Bill’s hand and found it “freezing” and challenged the duty manager – only to be told there was “no room” for him inside.
Veronica said the manager told her the foyer of the store in Taunton, Somerset, was full with a promotion and the collector should “wear a warmer coat tomorrow”.
Furious Veronica, a former member of the Women’s Royal Air Force, reported the incident on Facebook and her post became viral with many attacking the supermarket.
She said: “Every year, the poppies are sold just inside the door. I asked why he’d set up outside and he replied ‘the manager told me to move outside’.”
Mr Daw, who served with the West Kent Regiment, said: “We were told you can’t come in here, you’ll need to stand out there.
“I said: ‘But we’ve doing been this for years’. I couldn’t understand the man. But when they found out what had happened we were told we could go in.”
Morrisons blamed a ‘misunderstanding’ and staff had not realised that Mr Daw had taken over from another collector who had been happy to stand outside.
They said Mr Daw would have been invited inside had they known he was there.
A spokesman said: “The Royal British Legion in the morning confirmed they wanted to collect outside.
“However, at lunchtime their volunteer changed to an 89-year-old gentleman. This changes everything.
“We can confirm that our manager did not know this and therefore his comment re ‘wrap up warm’ is then exceptionally inappropriate and he is very saddened by this.
“We at Morrisons are very sorry at how this misunderstanding has looked.
“We will of course donate to the Royal British Legion, and will be making a special gift to both Ms Roach and our 89-year-old veteran.
“We spoke to the Royal British Legion and the store have removed a number of static items in the foyer to enable the Royal British Legion to be inside the store.”
The supermarket added: “Veronica is a very welcome regular in the store and is known by lots of the staff and the store manager and this issue has caused concern to all of them.
“The Royal British Legion and the store are managing this situation together and are both concerned regarding any adverse reaction towards the store.”
The Royal British Legion confirmed its collectors had been offered a choice about where to stand and decided on an outside position as there was a higher footfall.
A spokesman said: “We are grateful to Morrisons, as we are to all commercial outlets, who permit Poppy Appeal collections on their sites throughout the UK.”
Mr Daw is the standard bearer for the Taunton branch of the Burma Star Association. The old soldier, who as a 19-year-old private helped form a guard when the Japanese surrendered in Rangoon, is resilient to adversity.
He said: “We’ve got over it. It is all sorted out.”