A WAITROSE customer of more than 30 years says he will never shop there again after staff mistakenly believed he was taking advantage of the company’s free coffee offer.

Ian Hope went to the supermarket in Western Road, Brighton with friends. After completing his shopping he ordered the free cup of coffee which Waitrose cardholders can claim with their purchases.

But then he noticed from his receipt that he had been charged for it. His free coffee was also listed but when he checked while still in the store, the receipt also showed a second coffee, which he had paid for. He was given a refund.

The 69-year-old, who lives near the store, then went to get his drink from a coffee machine but it was not working so he tried two other machines, but they were not working either.

Then he said a staff member approached him and accused him of trying to take a free coffee.

Mr Hope said he was furious. He added: "She said to me 'it's Waitrose policy to question customers we believe are abusing the system'.

"At that point the coffee machine behind me started working again.

“I thought the right approach for the employee would be checking the customer’s receipt but I felt like I was being ambushed and accused of doing something I hadn’t done. I asked for an explanation but staff didn’t give me one.

“I went over to the customer service desk and complained. They were apologetic, to be fair but I emailed the chief executive to ask for an explanation.

"They told me from the CCTV footage they believed I had returned to the store to fill up my cup a second time.

“I was only in the store once that day, and only for about ten minutes. After numerous phone calls and emails to the Brighton’s store I wasn’t offered any explanation why the staff member believed I was trying to take another coffee.

"The whole thing is bizarre to me. I know mistakes happen and I should have been given an explanation.

"I think they must have mistaken me for someone else. I will never shop there again.”

A spokeswoman for Waitrose said: “We’re very sorry for the upset this caused Mr Hope and apologised to him for our misunderstanding.”