Reader Craig Matthew posed an interesting question to Consumer Watch recently.
Are bottle stores obliged to refund consumers on the 90c deposit paid on quart beer bottles when they are returned?
“I buy quart beers from my local bottle store, Tops at Spar in Glenore Centre, Glenashley, on a regular basis,” he said. “When I don’t take back my empties, I pay a deposit on my next purchase, so I get a build-up of bottles.
“I recently bought a case of 12 quarts from that bottle store, arriving there with 18 bottles, and requesting a refund on the other six (R5.40). But I was told that it is their policy not to pay deposit amounts on bottles returned without making a replacement beer purchase.
“When I said that I would leave them there, the manager, Simon, told one of his staff to put them in the rubbish bin outside the store.
“Where does one stand in a case like this? Apart from the monetary consideration, surely it’s in everyone’s interest to recycle glass?”
For the sake of R5.40, that bottle store lost a loyal customer, as Matthew has vowed not to return.
I asked Robyn Chalmers, head of media and communications at SAB, whether shops it supplied were compelled to pay deposits on returned quart bottles.
“We do recommend and encourage outlets to accept returnable bottles and to provide the customer with the full deposit value,” she said.
“We believe it’s bad practice for an outlet to refuse empty bottles and not return the deposit, but the ultimate decision on whether to do so rests with the outlet.
“There is no legislation or regulation which obligates them to do so.”
I took up the matter with Tops Glenore manager Mandy Conradt, who confirmed their policy, but said her colleague ought to have used his discretion and refunded Matthew, a regular customer, for the return of the extra six bottles.
She also undertook to introduce a new policy of accepting back all quart bottles, and refunding the 90c deposit.
“After all, we will be reimbursed by SAB for them,” she said.
Oh, and Matthew will be getting a case of beer as a goodwill gesture. Cheers to that!