Published: 14:59, 21 April 2021
| Updated: 15:59, 21 April 2021
A milk man has stepped forward after a 93-year-old widower who had the dairy product delivered for 60 years was told his supplier was moving to an online-only service.
Retired engineering instructor Patrick Clements, from Snodland, was one of many Milk & More customers who received a letter saying if he wanted his deliveries to continue until after April 24 he must set up an online account.
Milk & More say the move will protect the jobs of hundreds of employees and suppliers and the company delayed the change for as long as possible.
Mr Clements previously paid by direct debit, and would ring the company if he wanted to amend or cancel an order because he was going away.
He has macular degeneration (AMD), which impacts his eye sight and makes it difficult for him to use a computer or iPad.
Milk & More's decision prompted the widower's daughter, Jan Wan, to accuse the company of abandoning the elderly and vulnerable. She was concerned for those less independent than her dad, who don't have relatives or friends to set up the online account, or do shopping for them.
However, after seeing the original story on KentOnline, milk man Greg Smith, who runs independent company, Milkin' Medway, has offered to deliver the goods to Mr Clements, and even says he'll do it for free, although the 93-year-old is adamant he will pay.
Mr Smith, 25, from Twydall, used to work for Milk & More, but decided to leave when the company introduced the no cash or cheque payment policy.
Mr Smith, whose grandad was a milk man, said: "I wanted to go somewhere where they appreciate their customers. I just wanted to let him have the service for as long as he would need it."
Nearly 100 former Milk & More customers, who left the company because of the online-only service, have now signed up with Mr Smith.
Milkin' Medway accepts cheques and direct debit.
Mr Smith said: "I have had quite a few who have been really upset, one was actually in tears about it, just because they have had the service for so long."
Mr Clements said he was happy that he would continue to have his milk delivered, but said he intended to pay Mr Smith.
He did joke however: "I shall live until 100 just to get the free milk."
He said he continues to his own shopping but the milk pints are heavy to carry up the streets, even when he gets the bus.
Gillian Shephard- Coates, chief officer at the Age UK Sevenoaks and Tonbridge branch, said people have been contacting them about Milk & More's decision.
She said: "It's very disappointing. So many people aren't connected and aren't online."
'It's very disappointing. So many people aren't online...'
Mrs Shephard- Coates said milk deliveries had been a "life-line" for many during the pandemic, and that Age UK are lobbying the firm to reverse the decision.
A spokesperson for the company said: "Milk & More had, until recently, been in decline for over 40 years but we have made this decision in order to protect the jobs of hundreds of our colleagues and suppliers, as well as secure our future.
"We originally planned to implement this at the start of the year, but we delayed it due to the lockdown.
“Our decision to move to an online only business is not one we have taken lightly. This is why we conducted an online only trial in Essex last September, where we found that the majority of customers were happy to make the switch to online.
“The majority of online only food delivery businesses including supermarkets and takeaways use an ‘on the go’ prepay payment model like the one that Milk & More is adopting, which is simple and easy to use. This is the accepted way of trading online.
“In the first two weeks since our announcement, in line with our trial in Essex, we have seen the vast majority of offline customers move online.
"We understand and accept that not everyone will agree with our decision, but we believe this is the best way forward to deliver outstanding service to our customers and equally importantly to secure long-term growth.
“We are doing all we can to help our offline customers make the switch – as each and every one is important to us.
"For example, many of our online customers currently enjoy the service with the help of a family member or trusted friend, who have helped set up their account initially.
"We are also working with a leading charity organisation called The Good Things Foundation who help people get online.
"Ultimately if we are unable to find a solution that meets individual needs, then we are happy to help them, where possible, find an alternative supplier.”