At the beginning of November 1939 families were told by the Ministry of Food to register with a retailer as a preliminary to the introduction of rationing.
As registration committed a customer to using a particular shop, Sainsbury's was anxious to obtain as many registrations as possible. However, staff were instructed not to 'tout' for registrations as this was considered likely to be counter-productive. Instead they were told to rely on Sainsbury's reputation for quality and hygiene.
The paperwork involved in each registration was complex and time-consuming. Separate counterfoils had to be detached from the customer's ration book for every member of each family. These had to be checked to make certain that they contained the correct name and address of the applicant and the Sainsbury's branch with which they wished to register. They were sorted in alphabetical order, collated and despatched to the local food office. Finally a card-file register had to be kept with detailed records of every registration.
The implementation of these registration procedures caused some problems, as for most of the war, this procedure was repeated at six-monthly intervals, when customers were required to re-register. William Guest, manager of the branch at 66 Watney Street, was inundated with customers who were unable to fill in their ration books. This caused the staff at the small branch so much additional work that he had to apply to Mr Butcher, the district supervisor, for help. Mr Butcher in turn referred the matter to head office. William recalled;
The very next day a taxi drew up outside and out stepped Miss Potter and a group of her clerical staff. They loaded the ration books into the taxi and took them to Blackfriars [Sainsbury's Head Office], returning 24 hours later with a perfectly ordered filing system and several thousand ration books immaculately filled in.