For nearly 60 years, Joan Watts had her milk delivered to her doorstep. Like many Britons for decades, she ordered by leaving a note with the empty bottles and paid the milkman in cash in earlier years, later by direct debit.
But great-grandmother Joan, 90, is now one of thousands of elderly people whose milk delivery has been abruptly canceled.
Customers of Milk & More, the UK’s largest milk delivery service serving around half a million households, have been told that they must place all orders online and pay via a website or smartphone app using a debit or credit card.
Online only: Milk & More customers have been told that they must place all orders online and pay via a website or smartphone app by debit or credit card
From April 24th, all deliveries that cannot or do not want to use the Internet will be discontinued.
The move has sparked angry reactions from older customers who feel abandoned by an “ageist” policy.
“I was happy to pay by direct debit, but they said they wouldn’t allow it anymore,” says Joan, who is widowed.
“I had to cancel because I can’t use a computer and I am concerned about online banking fraud.”
Although around every fifth Milk & More customer buys their goods without the Internet, the company has made several attempts to change this since it was taken over by the German milk giant Müller in 2015.
In 2019, the company announced that it would ban payments by cash or check from January 2020. Customers could still pay monthly by direct debit or by phone over the phone – but for offline customers prices were increased by 4p per pint.
A test of the new system was carried out in Essex last September, which it said was “really successful” with the “vast majority of customers” going online. But it wasn’t successful for everyone and Joan who lives in Essex was just one of the people left behind.
After next week, all customers across the country will have to go online or their deliveries will be canceled.
A Milk & More milkman who has worked in the same region for 38 years told his customers that he was “devastated” by the decision and extremely concerned about the vulnerable and isolated elderly.
We have had milk on our doorstep for 50 years
Offline: Jean and John Salt will have their milk delivered for the last time next week
Jean and John Salt will have their last milk delivered next week, exactly 50 years since they received their first delivery on their wedding day.
The couple from Bexleyheath, Kent, have a computer but don’t feel comfortable ordering milk online.
Since no other delivery services are available near you, you will have to cancel.
Jean, 78, says: “We have always had milk delivered since we were married.
“It was nice because our milkman knew everyone and was on the lookout for people.
“Now we have to buy milk in the supermarket. We’re one of the lucky ones because we have a car.
“It’s very unfair to people who don’t have a computer, and it seems to be how the world is going now.”
With more than two million over 75s in England unable to use the internet, activists said this was another example of the elderly lacking access to essential services.
“It is important that those who cannot or do not want to use the Internet are not excluded or disadvantaged,” says Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK.
In the 1970s, around 99 percent of milk was delivered to your doorstep, but this dropped to just 3 percent before the pandemic.
Before Covid-19, around 527,000 customers had delivered milk, but this rose to 716,000 in 2020 and, according to market analyst Kantar, has since settled to 672,000.
Milk & More has added 175,000 new customers in the past two years, due to both the lockdown and demand from environmentally conscious buyers who want reusable glass bottles.
The company confirmed to Money Mail that the switch to “Online Only” was about “cost efficiency” as direct debit processing is more expensive.
It was said to offer customers help getting online, but Money Mail found its instructions helpful only if you already own a computer or smartphone and understand the internet.
A spokesperson for Milk & More said the company had “invested in our business to transform it from one that has been in decline for more than 40 years to one that is high-growth”.
The online custom “turned the business around” and stopping offline orders and payments would “protect the jobs of hundreds of milkmen, milk women and small vendors.
“We understand that not everyone will agree to our decision, and we know that there will be people who cannot or will not make the change.
“In these cases we are very ready to help you find an alternative supplier wherever possible,” he adds.
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