A single mother-of-two has accused Iceland of discriminating against one-parent families after she claims she was told she could not do her shop because 'kids are not allowed'.
Elena Sotiriou, 46, who lives in Upminster, claims she was told by the manager of her local branch that she would have to leave the store with her children because it went against new Covid-19 measures to limit customers.
The charity shop volunteer, who was with her daughter Georgia, seven, and son, Ioannis Marino, four, said she was left shocked after she said she was told by a manager it was ‘her problem’ how she got her food.
Elena Sotiriou, 46, who lives in Upminster, claims she was told by the manager of her local branch that she would have to leave the store because she was with her children
Miss Sotiriou posted on Facebook: ‘I went to collect my medication from Boots as Iceland is just a few doors away and I have always done my shopping there as the charity shop I work at is just a few shops away and it's so convenient.
‘I am a regular customer and had no bread or milk and some other stuff I needed.
'I queued outside Iceland til it was our turn to go inside. Obviously I had my two young kids, ages 4 and 7, with me as they are both too young to stay home.'
She added: 'I'm a single mum, we have no relatives here at all in the UK - their grandparents, aunties and dad are all back in Cyprus - so it is just me and them.’
The charity shop volunteer, who was with her daughter Georgia, seven, and son, Ioannis Marino, four
Miss Sotiriou said she kept her children by her side as she entered the supermarket and in the aisles.
When she was approached by an Iceland staff member, Miss Sotiriou said: ‘I tried to explain to her, first kindly, that I have no one else to help me with food shopping as I'm a single mum and can’t leave my kids home on their own as they are both under age.
‘Her reply was that she doesn’t make the rules and there is a clear sign at the front of the shop saying children are not allowed.’
Miss Sotiriou (pictured with Georgia, seven, and son, Ioannis Marino, four) said she was left ‘annoyed’ and felt the rule was unfair on single parents
Miss Sotiriou said she was left ‘annoyed’ and felt the rule was unfair on single parents.'
She said: ‘I have always done my shopping there before. But now in situations like this, instead of helping us out, they have shut the doors to us.
‘I was angry and told her I wouldn't be shopping there again and she replied that it’s “my problem”.’
Despite being told she couldn't shop there, Miss Sotiriou grabbed her food essentials and went to the till to pay.
She said: ‘I complained to the lady working on the till and she said the same thing - that they don't make the rules and told me to speak to the manager.
‘She pointed to the manager and to my disbelief, the lady I had the argument with was actually the manager. I could not believe it!
‘The lack of customer service. I work on tills myself in the charity shop, so I know what I'm talking about and the importance of being nice to customers.’
Miss Sotiriou said she has still not received a response after complaining to Iceland customer service and went home to write a post on her local Facebook community.
She said: ‘I then went home - angry and puffing! I found out that I wasn't the only one complaining. I did some more searching and found out that other shops are doing it too.
‘I think it is unfair and discriminatory. How are all the single parents, that have no help and kids under age, able to survive if they can’t enter the shops?’
Miss Sotiriou said she received positive responses from others in her community and said they were very supportive of her.
Miss Sotiriou added: ‘People couldn't believe how single parents are supposed to feed their kids if we can't get into the shops.’
The mother has now been left with fewer options to get her shopping in the coming weeks as she’s on a budget.
She added that she would use online shopping however when she last checked, the next available slot wasn't until the end of April.
Miss Sotiriou posted on Facebook: ‘I went to collect my medication from Boots as Iceland is just a few doors away and I have always done my shopping there'
Supermarkets across the UK have introduced strict rules over the past few weeks to deal with an outbreak of panic buying amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Iceland’s opening times have changed, items have been rationed and two-metre distancing has been outlined on shop floors.
The chain has also limited its delivery service to those over state pension age and have set aside 8am-9am for elderly, vulnerable people and their carers to access priority shopping.
The supermarket has also dedicated the last hour of trading to NHS workers.
However a spokesperson for Iceland said there is 'certainly no ban on bringing children into stores where parents have no alternative' and said they will make sure information is not 'misinterpreted'.
The spokesperson said: ‘Like all the other food retailers we are encouraging people to shop on their own whenever possible, to make it easier to comply with the Government’s social distancing rules, and we have displayed a poster to this effect at the entrance to all our stores.
‘However, we are well aware that many of our customers are single parents and there is certainly no ban on bringing children into stores where parents have no alternative but to bring their children with them.
‘I have come across instances where people have misinterpreted the poster as a complete ban on bringing children into the store.
'If, as you seem to be saying, the lady concerned was told verbally that she was not allowed to bring her children into the store, then someone in Upminster has misunderstood our rules and I will ensure that the correct information is conveyed to them.’