POPPY SELLERS TOLD TO LEAVE SHOPPING CENTRE
UXBRIDGE residents are threatening to boycott intu Uxbridge after two veteran volunteers selling poppies for Remembrance Day were made to leave the shopping centre.
John Paul Gaughan, 59, and Vic Emery, 57, served a collective total of 50 years in the Army but were “disgusted” after being told they did not have permission to be there and would need to leave for “public safety reasons” on Saturday November 3.
John and Vic continued to sell poppies by the main entrance, ahead of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One on Sunday November 11, and were later invited to come back inside, but say they refused on principle.
John, who says he wears a poppy all year round, said: “I am actually disgusted and I just could not get my head around it.
“I will keep volunteering for the Poppy Appeal as long as I still have breath in my lungs because I lost too many friends not to, but I wouldn’t go back to intu. I won’t even shop there.
“I go to a veterans’ breakfast club and they asked if anybody could volunteer to help issue poppies so I did assume it was all above board and sorted.
“The manager told us it was policy, but the basic principle of health and safety as far as I’m concerned is a common sense approach and that was not used here.
“We are not really selling anything, it’s just a donation. Plus, it was for a one-off event and a major anniversary, which we or even our grandchildren might not see again.”
John said he and his fellow volunteer had been selling poppies from 9am until about lunchtime when an intu employee asked if they had permission to be there and then informed them they would have to leave.
He added: “We left and no voices were raised but, of course, the local populace thought it was disgusting and about an hour later a lady came back outside and asked us to come back in.
“We refused on principle. Even though I prefer to stand inside, I have been in all kinds of inclement weather and I would stand in driving snow, rain or whatever and not mind it for this cause.
“If they had taken a moment to think about what we are doing and why first, we could have come to a resolution, but I don’t appreciate them coming back an hour later to change their mind without even saying sorry.
“I don’t have a vendetta or want anyone to lose their jobs over it. I just think people need to be better educated about this issue. We had some people asking us when Armistice Day was.”
John’s fellow volunteer Vic said that intu Uxbridge’s behaviour was “shameful” and “should never have happened” given that they both fought for their country.
He added: “I’m a health and safety officer myself and I thought it was very weird.
“After the public became quite unhappy about it, they did say we could come back in, but by that point we were settled where we were.”
In an official statement, intu Uxbridge said: “We support and value the role of the Poppy Appeal, and every year we support its volunteers in raising all important funds.
“While the volunteers hadn’t notified us of their collection, which we kindly require all of our charity and volunteer organisations to do, we did have conversations with their team to allow them to remain in the centre, but they declined to do so.
“We are discussing this with the British Legion to ensure that this situation doesn’t happen again and that they continue to be welcomed into the centre.”
General manager Laurie Taylor added: “We have never had problems with poppy sellers before because previously they have come to speak to us first.
“For all we knew, these could have been rogue sellers even though they were wearing berets and medals.”
Despite Vic’s insistence that there were “no rows”, Mr Taylor added: “The gentlemen were asked nicely if they would mind going as they did not have permission and refused.
“They started getting funny with us and taking pictures of us.
“One of our employees later apologised but they refused to come back in and were quite stubborn.
“Instead they stayed outside telling customers that we kicked them out. A number of people actually came to us to get our view because they were being quite negative outside and once we explained they understood.”
The Royal British Legion has been contacted for comment.
John Paul Gaughan (left) and Vic Emery were asked to leave intu Uxbridge