Pricefixer supermarket has rejected claims that it deliberately took on unemployed hospitality workers to use as store insulation because they were ‘cheaper and easier to maintain’.
The inquiry follows allegations made by three sommeliers and a bartender who said they were taken on for a role described as ‘valued, customer-facing drinks advisers’ but ended up plugging gaps in the roof and acting as human draught excluders.
According to former cork jockey, Pierre Tire-Bouchon, the four were employed as part of Pricefixer’s new ‘Instant Drinks Concierge service’.
The initiative promised the public ‘expert recommendations 24/7’ and was launched with much fanfare last month.
But instead of having a sleek dedicated area to work in, the four were simply given a company mobile and told to plug gaps in the infrastructure.
Two were sent to give their consumer recommendations ‘over a hole in the roof’, one was made to ‘lie down by a draughty door’ and a fourth was asked to multitask as a paperweight by Pricefixer’s MD.
‘I don’t know which was worse,’ said Tire-Bouchon, ‘having to recommend non-stop Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc and PriceFixer’s crappy own-label wines hour after hour, or the fact that when it rained my fleece got wet.’
Pricefixer has denied the claims, saying that they ‘sell at least two whites besides Marlborough Sav’ and their own label range is ‘not crappy. At least, not all of it.’
The episode is the latest in a long line of exploitation of hospitality workers who have lost their jobs because of Covid.
Fake Booze lifted the lid on James Suckling’s Battery Tasting Farms earlier this year. But there have also been heartbreaking reports of hospitality professionals working as sales reps, influencers and, tragically, journalists.
Pricefixer’s Head of Mendacity, Giles Methadone, said the whole affair had been a ‘misunderstanding’.
‘Our maintenance guys said they needed two planks a stuffed dummy and something small and dense,’ he told Fake Booze. ‘It was just our good luck that these guys fitted the bill perfectly.’
Tire-Bouchon said the episode had left his co-workers feeling ‘exploited, cheap and humiliated.
‘Though on the plus side the money was no worse than working in hospitality, and the hours were somewhat better.’