Seriously ill teenager “humiliated” by Lowestoft supermarket’s refusal to sell gifts

Terminally ill Jade-Louise Cullen, 18, with her mum Ann-Marie. Terminally ill Jade-Louise Cullen, 18, with her mum Ann-Marie.

Friday, December 21, 2012
5:24 PM

A terminally-ill teenager has been left devastated after staff at a Lowestoft store refused to sell her the Christmas presents she was trying to buy for her friends.

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Terminally ill Jade-Louise Cullen, 18, from Louise was refused alcohol from the local ASDA store even though her mother was with her. Pictured with her mother Ann-Marie and sister Chloe.Terminally ill Jade-Louise Cullen, 18, from Louise was refused alcohol from the local ASDA store even though her mother was with her. Pictured with her mother Ann-Marie and sister Chloe.

Ann-Marie Cullen claimed staff at the town’s Asda store had refused to sell gift sets containing alcohol to her 18-year-old daughter Jade because her younger sister Chloe, 17, had lifted them on to the conveyor belt at the till.

Jade suffers from cystic fibrosis, diabetes, liver disease and epilepsy and uses a mobility scooter to get around.

Miss Cullen said her eldest daughter was physically weak as a result of the cystic fibrosis and couldn’t lift the shopping on to the check-out herself.

Asda stood by its actions yesterday but has offered the Cullen family a Christmas hamper as a gesture of goodwill. A spokesman said, although it might have seemed heavy handed, the company didn’t blame Lowestoft staff for being over cautious as they could be personally liable for an on- the-spot fine if they served alcohol to anyone aged under 18.

The Cullen family, who live in Higher Drive, Lowestoft, left the supermarket without any of the Christmas presents, which included chocolates, socks, a bucks fizz set and a vodka set,

Miss Cullen said: “Jade was upset and totally humiliated and Chloe was in tears because she thought is was her fault the presents hadn’t been bought because she had helped her sister.

“As a parent I am gob-smacked. How can anyone treat someone with a disability like this? I would never have thought Chloe wouldn’t be allowed to help her sister.”

Miss Cullen, who was waiting to pay at a nearby check-out, said Jade had shown identification proving her age when challenged by Asda staff.

She said she had spoken with the manager and even offered to buy the gifts herself but was still refused because Chloe, who is registered as a young adult carer for Jade, was under 18.

She added that Wednesday, when the incident took place, was the last chance Jade would have to buy presents for her friends before Christmas because she was going to Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital yesterday to start intravenous anti-biotics for a chest infection.

Jade was voted the Lowestoft Journal Inspirational Child of the Year in the 2007 Pride in the Community Awards. She spent last Christmas in hospital with a collapsed lung and was hospitalised with another collapsed lung and a chest infection this year. Jade spent several months in intensive care after contracting pneumonia in early 2011 and has slept on the living room sofa ever since because she is not well enough to walk up the stairs. Her condition has deteriorated so much, doctors have said she has between one and two years left to live.

Miss Cullen added: “Jade feels she is existing, not living. That little bit of pleasure of preparing for Christmas has been taken away from her.”

An Asda spokesman said: “We support our colleagues to make the right decision using a common sense approach. In this instance our colleague chose not to sell a 17-year-old alcohol, which is in line with our policy and the law.

“We’d never intentionally upset a customer but we’re committed to selling alcohol responsibly.”

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