Why does this Archway shopkeeper ask customers for ID at the door?

The owner of Oriental Food supermarket in Archway claims he needs to ask customers for ID to protect his own safety. But visitors to the shop feel like they are being judged based on the colour of their skin. Reported by Naomi Guo, Alastair Thomas, Will Ing and Christy Cooney

A Chinese supermarket has been accused of racial profiling after asking some customers to present ID before allowing them into the shop.

Oriental Food, on Junction Road near Archway, introduced the system after being the target of theft and physical harassment by local youths.

But it has received a flurry of negative reviews branding its owner, Simon Wong, “rude” and “racist” from once-regular customers who felt they had been refused entry because they were not of a south-east Asian ethnicity.

The entrance to Oriental Food, Junction Road, Archway.
The entrance to Oriental Food, Junction Road, Archway.

Mr Wong says he decided to enact the policy after being abused and attacked outside his shop by a group of young people who he believes are also responsible for anti-social behaviour and shoplifting on the same street. He says he phoned the police four times in one day in September last year, but that officers were unable to identify any culprits.

He maintains that his entry policy applies equally to all customers regardless of ethnicity, gender, or age, but when Islington Now sent two reporters, one caucasian and one Chinese, to the store, only the caucasian was asked to present ID before entering. He said this was because our Chinese reporter “obviously didn’t look like someone who would hurt [him]”.

“I don’t know who will be the robber so I ask people for ID because if you were a robber you definitely wouldn’t want to show me your ID,” he said.

“Because we can’t tell what kind of a person will cause trouble, whether you are black or white we can’t tell but asking for ID will turn the bad people away.

“I witnessed the corner store right opposite us get harassed by young people. Their staff were held by a broken bottle and they still didn’t call the police.”

The supermarket is also on the same street as the TOY Project UK charity shop, which was recently the target of a robbery.

“Sometimes we have problems with the children, particularly underage children. That’s why Mr Wong put the lock up, for his own safety,” said Ram Selliah, owner of the news agent right opposite the Chinese supermarket. 

The shop now has a 2-star rating on Yelp and 3.1 rating on Google, with its last five reviews all being one-star. Mr Wong has responded to many of the reviews, often at length, arguing with the customers.

Writing on Google reviews, Amaan Merali said: “After nearly 4 years of getting Oriental groceries from here, the owner locked the door on me before I could go in, and yelled at me that he wouldn’t serve me. On the front door was a placard stating due to high crime recently, ID must be shown. I am certain the shop-keeper was racially profiling me – there were clients inside who were all Chinese.”

An exchange between the customer and the business owner on Google Reviews. Credit: Google Places.

Responding, Mr Wong said: “Don’t worry, we refused dozen of people everyday. You just being one of them. You tried to force in while the door Ian locked. Pointed you the sign and lady asked you for ID. You replied with swearing. You deserved to be banned forever.”

Another user, Arian Zand, wrote: “The shopkeeper regularly refuses entry based on skin colour. I would suggest you take your business elsewhere. In this day and age segregation is completely unacceptable.”