I wrote an article yesterday about Luton airport and mentioned that I couldn’t understand why I was asked to show my boarding pass at Boots (the chemist that also sells drinks, sandwiches etc.) when buying a sandwich. I also said that I’d written the following to Boots:

I use the Boots store at Luton airport each week and buy just a sandwich. I’m always asked for my boarding pass and mostly complain that I think this is pointless.
Please can you tell me what information you are retrieving and storing when scanning my boarding pass?
Can you also advise if I am at liberty to refuse to show my boarding pass and still make a purchase?

Well I had a very quick response from Boots (see below) and it seems that you can refuse to show your boarding pass and still be able to make a purchase. I also see from a thread on Business Traveller, that someone had a similar response from WH Smith.

Response from Boots:

Thank you for contacting us to request more information on why you are asked for your boarding pass when you purchase an item in our Airport store.

After looking into this matter, I would like to confirm that the purpose of scanning boarding cards in our airport stores is to ensure the accuracy of our accounting records. The information gained is used for a number of reasons. One such reason is that we’re very keen to ensure that our prices are competitive, and that we do not operate a dual pricing strategy between our High Street and Airport Stores.

I can confirm that we are not required to account for VAT to HMRC for goods that have been sold to passengers flying to non-EU destinations. HMRC and the airports accept that this is general practice for all airport retailers.

By asking for a customer’s boarding pass, we can ensure that our VAT accounting is correct and in line with HMRC’s requirements.

Our airport Store Teams are asked to collate this information, however, I would like to assure you that this is not a compulsory requirement. If a customer does not wish to share this information, then we would still expect the transaction to go ahead, but without the boarding card being scanned.

To also reassure you once more, we do not keep a record of passenger names, or other personal details.

I do hope this information is of interest to you, but if I can help further, please quote your customer reference number 14149058 on any further correspondence. Alternatively, please call on 03450 70 80 90.

Thank you for contacting Boots.

29th November 2014 Update:

I made a purchase from Boots LHR T3 last night (flying to Prague). There were signs saying ‘Please have your boarding pass ready’. The assistant asked me if I was flying direct, which is a reasonable request as I had liquids of over 100ml in my basket. I said I was flying direct. The assistant asked for my boarding pass. I said “Well I’ve been told that I don’t need to show this if I don’t want to – is that correct?”. The assistant replied “Yes, it’s optional” and proceeded to scan my items.