Why was a Costa Coffee customer barred from buying food for a homeless man?

TV cameraman Adrian Pinsent was stunned when he was told by staff at Costa Coffee in London's Waterloo station that he couldn't buy a sandwich and drink for a homeless man. He said more people need to stand up to this treatment.

On his regular commute home to Surrey on Monday night, Adrian Pinsent stopped to buy food for a homeless man at London’s Waterloo station.

Thinking nothing of the gesture, he invited the man to join him in the nearby Costa Coffee to pick something.

Pinsent, 40, was shocked, however, when a Costa barista refused to sell him the sandwich and Pepsi, claiming they would be “prosecuted” because it went against station “policy” to sell food to a homeless person.

“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” Pinsent, a freelance camera operator from Walton-on-Thames, told The Big Issue. “What was this rule? Who had told them they’d be prosecuted?

“I explained that this was unacceptable and gave them several opportunities to do the right thing. They refused, so I said I was going to film what was going on and put it on social media.”

In the clip, filmed by Pinsent, he said: “I, as a legitimate customer, want to buy some food for a homeless person… is that Costa Coffee policy that I cannot buy food for a homeless person from this shop?”

The barista is heard repeatedly apologising but refuses to complete the transaction. The video ends with Pinsent explaining that he was leaving a £10 note and taking the food regardless.

I didn’t expect it to explode like this, but questions had to be asked

Pinsent posted the video on Twitter and the incident went viral. It was also reported by national news websites, including The Sun and Mail Online.

“Obviously I didn’t expect it to explode the way it has done, but questions had to be asked,” Pinsent explained. “I couldn’t blindly accept what they were saying.

“There is a bigger issue here, where homeless people are being vilified. Look at the homeless spikes outside office blocks and flats. So many people are happy to ignore the issue, to push it somewhere else. That’s not good enough.”

Network Rail – the firm who manages the station – and British Transport Police have both said that they have no such policy in place.

Look at the homeless spikes. People are being vilified

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.”

In the wake of the incident, TV presenter and friend of The Big Issue, Julia Bradbury, shared the video and raised concern (below). “Obviously someone trying to buy a homeless person food shouldn’t be refused,” Bradbury tweeted.

This was followed by a reply, below, from a reader highlighting the support of a local Costa Coffee for their Big Issue seller…

Indeed, Big Issue vendors have been invited to sell the magazine in several train stations across London and the rest of the country and have been made very welcome.

This includes Donato Barbieri at Victoria in London, Amy Stevens at Harry Potter’s famous Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross, and Paun Efdenoiu at New Street Station in Birmingham, among others.