Albert Heijn: Dutch supermarket drops call for staff underwear photos

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An Albert Heijn supermarket is seen in the NetherlandsImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Albert Heijn is the largest supermarket chain in the Netherlands

The Netherlands' leading supermarket chain has abandoned a request for staff to upload semi-naked photographs of themselves to an app so it could work out sizes for a new uniform.

Albert Heijn had called on staff at a branch in the eastern city of Nijmegen to upload photos of themselves in their underwear or tight-fitting sports gear.

The move sparked widespread criticism on Dutch social media.

Abandoning the trial, the company admitted it should never have happened.

Clearly appalled by the idea of a supermarket having a database of its workers in their underwear, the Dutch Data Protection Authority described it as bizarre.

Albert Heijn had "no grounds whatsoever to require its staff to do this", it said, suggesting uniform sizes could be determined in a less radical way.

The story was first reported by Dutch newspaper NRC, which said a poster about the method for measuring the uniform had appeared in a staff canteen in the Nijmegen supermarket.

"Wear underwear or tight-fitting sportswear so the contours of your body can be measured as accurately as possible. And ask someone to help you take the photos," it said.

An email to employees in Nijmegen, seen by NRC, reportedly said that use of the app was "essential and mandatory".

Image source, Albert Heijn
Image caption,
The company is aiming to replace its existing uniform next year

Nijmegen had been selected to try out the app before it was rolled out at Albert Heijn supermarkets across the country.

Albert Heijn has insisted that participation in the trial was never mandatory. A spokesman told Dutch media that the firm had been trying to find a better way of collating all the sizes of its 100,000 workers and felt an app would be more helpful than receiving 100,000 emails.

In a statement to the BBC on Tuesday, the company confirmed that it had been testing the use of an "innovative mobile app" to determine clothing sizes "in a quick and efficient way" before introducing a new uniform across its 1,000 stores next year.

"In this test we asked associates to upload a personal photo in close-fitted clothing or underwear for automatic analyses by the app. Although participation was voluntary and pictures were not visible to Albert Heijn management, this should never have happened," a spokesperson said.

"We have cancelled the pilot and we apologise to all involved."

Albert Heijn told the BBC it was unsure how many people had actually uploaded photos, but that it was halfway through the two-week trial at the supermarket, which has about 400 staff, when it was cancelled on Monday.

The company has said any pictures already uploaded would be deleted and that it was "looking for a different method to identify clothing sizes".

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Media caption,
This supermarket is being piloted which has no tills, forcing customers to pay by app