A long-serving manager of a bakery has been fired for “gross misconduct” because she had been accepting cash from elderly customers without bank cards 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 store manager for 25 years until her dismissal.
The bakery chain, which has dozens of branches across the Midlands, is one of many businesses to have imposed a card-only policy for payments to minimise any risk to staff and customers during the the coronavirus pandemic.
But many customers who visited the business were elderly and did not own bank cards, Ms Metcalfe told Nottinghamshire Live.
Not wanting to turn them away, Ms Metcalfe paid for their goods using her own debit card, showed them their receipt, and asked the elderly customers to put their cash payments into her purse.
She understood her actions were “against company policy” but said there was “no way” she could let her elderly customers “walk away telling them they could not buy it because they didn’t have a card”.
The customers had already handled the items, which would have had to be “binned or cleaned”, she added.
Ms Metcalfe told the local news website she took around £180 in cash and paid for them using her own card, and kept receipts of the transactions.
But Birds dismissed Ms Metcalfe after learning of her actions and holding a disciplinary hearing.
“I was just trying to do the right thing,” she was quoted as saying. “I am really upset by it of course… I was told I was endangering staff members’ lives by doing what I did.”
She said the cash never exchanged hands as the customers would put it straight into her purse.
“I should not have done it but I don’t like to let people down, and a lot of these customers depend on us, coming to us every day.”
News of Ms Metcalfe's sacking has sparked a backlash against the business, with some pointing out she helped vulnerable customers to essential food items.
Over 6,000 people have signed a petition calling for the company to reinstate her and arguing kindness was not a “sackable offence”.
The GMB Union has also condemned the company’s decision, calling it “outrageous”.
National officer Roger Jenkins said in a statement: “Sacking a shopkeeper for helping elderly customers with no access to cashless payments is beyond outrageous.
“But it illustrates the terrible damage that would be done to people’s lives if we allow cash to wither and die.
“Aside from the impact on the elderly and vulnerable, it would wreak havoc on the small and medium enterprises that rely on cash transactions.”
Birds Bakery said it was aware of the petition but noted its card-only policy was put in place after “overwhelming response” from their staff at the start of the pandemic stating they preferred not to touch banknotes and coins.
In a statement, it added: “Our card-only policy was not to be taken lightly. We take the safety of our staff and customers very seriously – and have very tight procedures in place during this continuing pandemic.
“We are sorry that so many people are upset about Megan Metcalfe’s dismissal from Birds, but she contravened our health and safety policy and we took that very seriously.”
Birds said Ms Metcalfe would not be reinstated, but wished her well in her new role working in a care home.