Why Stores Have To ID Everyone

Our earlier post about carding senior citizens was all well and good, but here’s what life’s like from the other side of the register, according to Behind the Counter: “Nearly everyone who works a register and is faced with the prospect of selling tobacco and alcohol ought to be very, very afraid. Why? Because the federal government is watching you and will deliberately try to bust your Wal-Mart khaki-clad behind!”

Enforcement is strict, and the consequences are severe. Says the author of the blog:

A friend of mine who worked at a convenience store actually had that happen to him because he wasn’t paying attention on a holiday weekend and sold a pack of Marlboro Lights to a kid that looked 25 but was really 16. The episode cost him his job and almost $4,000 in attorney fees and fines. They don’t play.

Every single time anyone who does not look old enough to have fought at Normandy tries to buy tobacco or alcohol from me I feel an icy stab of fear grip my chest. “Is this the one? Are there agents watching? Is this a sting?” We’ve had the ID traps run at our store. Cashiers have been fired and arrested.

Read the full post, which includes details of Customer Service “Mystery Shoppers,” who swoop in like Dementors to suck the—well, not joy exactly, but whatever it is you’re supposed to be feeling when you’re at work—from your skull.

(We still think it’s foolishness to card a 74-year-old man.)

“Why are some retail places retentive about proving your age?” [Behind the Counter — and our first title for this post was, “Retail Double Agent Reveals Big Brother Conspiracy Behind ID Checks!”]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. bnet41 says:

    You say federal government above, and I don’t believe that is true. I think the stings are more of a local and state government thing. The rules and enforcement come from that level with just some higher level laws coming from the federal level. I doubt a convenience store clerk gets busted by the ATF. More likely it’s the local sheriff’s department working with another local or state agency.

  2. Terek Kincaid says:

    When I worked a summer at a convenience store, I was aware there might be undercover kids trying to get me busted, but I wasn’t paranoid about it. I carded about 30 and under.

    I feel bad about it now, but at the time, I actually liked denying folks their beer or cigs if they forgot their ID. Customers pissed me off all day, and that was a way I could get them back without getting myself in trouble. They knew technically it was the law, so they getting a manager wouldn’t help. They’d bitch at me, I’d bitch back, and feel better.

    Funny thing was, this was a gas station kind of in the middle of nowhere; 99% of the customers had to drive to get there. Why are you driving without your license anyway?

    I’m a changed man, now, of course. Having spent more time on the customer end of customer service, I would have been much more polite than I was.

  3. Terek Kincaid says:

    Yeah, I think you’re right. I think the states set the smoking and drinking age. Congress forced the drinking age by tying federal highway funding into it (if your state’s age is under 21, you get no money). But, I think technically the states still have the right to make a 15 year old drinking age if they want.

  4. MMD says:

    Ok – they need to ID everyone for buying alcohol. Fine. BUT – can they ID you if you’re buying a non-alcohol product in a liquor store? The liquor store closest to us has started carding for every purchase – even if we’re only buying tonic water. They’ve also recently posted a banner stating that you must be 21 to make ANY purchase.

    This is beyond annoying. We used to shop here almost exclusively due to the convenience of the location, but now we go out of our way to shop elsewhere. carding for alcohol is the law, but carding for tonic water is an invasion of privacy.

    Obviously I think they shouldn’t be doing this. My question is: Can they legally do this?

  5. Digitamer81 says:

    It’s not just liquor stores, convenience stores, and grocery stores that have to ask for ID from everyone wanting something like that. I’ve got a post up on my website, RagingServer.com (warning, can be offensive) on the reasons that we as restaurant servers have to card people. Basically, we can not only be fired, fined, and kept from working in another restaurant that serves alcohol, but the company can also be fined for it, and sometimes those fines are up there.

  6. RandomHookup says:

    Just make sure you bring your passport if you are buying liquor with an out-of-state license in Mass. Technically, they can only use Mass. drivers license, Mass. liquor ID (special ID that anyone living in state can get) and passport. Even Mass. ID (non-liquor) technically isn’t the right ID. Really great for the tourists.

  7. RandomHookup says:

    And I think they can also accept military ID.

  8. WhatThe... says:

    In Idaho, retailers ask cashiers to card EVERYONE. Grandma or great grandma get carded. A good cashier can usually charm their way through it. And it’s a good thing I could, I was setup for a sting by a couple of young undercover cops.

  9. destijl says:

    I work for in a State ATD Law Enforcement office as a secretary to the agents here.
    The state government always fines the licensee of a business, while locals will fine/arrest the actual cashier who sold the tobacco or alcohol to an underage person. Often the state and locals will work together on an operation, but sometimes the states do their own thing and locals do their own thing.

  10. supra606 says:

    There is a certain point when carding someone who is obviously over 21 is not even a compliment any more but simply ridiculous. That point came when I was in a liquor store a while back and a poor old man who could barely walk or move at all tried to buy himself some vodka. He had to have been at least 80 years old but the cashier made him pull out his id, much to the dismay of everyone in the fairly large line that had already formed behind him because he was moving so slowly. The poor guy looked like he wanted to start crying as he worked to fish his id out of his pocket at length with his hands shaking terribly from arthritis. He looked so embarrassed. How pathetic is our society when people aren’t even allowed to exercise even the tiny amount of discretion that would have prevented this situation and others like it from happening?

  11. Javert says:

    The thing I don’t get is how hard is it to show your ID? I have two different views on this. The first was when the police department in my university town actually disguised people to bust retailers for selling to minors. Second, I was a waiter at a Chilis and you know what? I cannot judge a person’s age. It should not be in my hands to decide who gets carded and who does not. Sure you can provide extreme examples of a 75 year old person, fine but how hard is it to show your ID (I am repeating myself, sorry).

  12. Javert says:

    @RandomHookup: From my prior experience at the Fleet Shawmut Garden, they will take an out of state ID if you have a second ID. Of course the person behind the register was annoyed with the rule and accepted my library card as a second ID. But I have been to other venues where they absolutely would not accept an out of state DL. Boy, were the Rhode Islanders mad. My question is, assuming that the out of state DL is a legal document, does this not in some way violate the full faith and credit clause?

    Wow, until you mentioned this, I had totally forgotten about it. Welcome to the People’s Republic of Massachusetts.

  13. lawnmowerdeth says:

    How about they just stop wasting time on kids buying smokes and worry about real criminals? Oh, because there’s no money in it.

  14. stpauliegirl says:

    I worked at a gas station in Wisconsin when I was a teenager, and at the time, the rule was that if you looked under 27 for cigarettes or under 30 for booze, then you got carded. I never carded an oldster, and the law had my back on it.

    On the flip side, as soon as I turned 18, I was sent out as a secret shopper to see if other stores in the chain would card me (and also to spy on their cleanliness and the like). I got a manager a two-day suspension! Good times.

  15. micahd says:

    I’ve got to say thanks to the Consumerist for bringing to light the other side of the counter.

  16. mmcnary says:

    I used to like to card 30 something women when I worked the door at a local joint. Occasionally one was grateful…

  17. supra606 says:

    @lawnmowerdeth: I agree with you 100%. With all the problems in this country, why in the world are we worrying about this one? When did it become the government’s job to raise people’s kids anyway?

  18. MystiMel says:

    I work at a college campus convenience store. Our management tells us we don’t have to (and shouldn’t) card for cigarettes unless the person looks too young. We don’t sell any alcohol. I guess we do that because it can be assumed that most college students are at least 18 or about to be 18. Our store is VERY busy 90% of the time with a line going out the door. I have been worried about stings in the past, but as I’ll only be working there a week or so more, I think I should be alright. If we did card, I can predict we’d have a lot of frustrated customers and quite a few people that think I should remember they’re 18 from yesterday when they came in.
    I think it would be good to do it anyway. It’s hard if it isn’t policy for every employee to do it though.

  19. Murph1908 says:

    When I worked at a bar on Fort Myers beach during Spring Break, I had a guy in his 40’s come up to the bar with a kid who looked around 21. They ordered beers. I told him they had to go to the bouncer to be carded and stamped. The older guy tried to talk me out of it, but I didn’t budge (would have been fired). They gave up, and walked off in different directions. We all believed it was a cop using an underage offender he caught to try to get me.

    On another day (before the bouncers came on duty), a kid came up and showed me an Indiana license. He about blew a gasket when I pulled out my own Indiana license to compare (I knew when I first looked at his something was off…it was the font). We confiscated it, and put it in the pile that we turned over to ATF every week. His dad, a cop, tried talking the owner and the bouncer into giving it back. Sorry, Charlie. Those 100 per week were our proof of good faith effort for when a fake slipped past. Those bouncers were GOOD at spotting them.

  20. CurbRunner says:

    I was at an outdoor, Friday evening, downtown, music concert in Vacaville, CA a few months ago that’s sponsored by the city. They have a couple of beer trucks there that they sell brew from. They asked for my ID when I asked for a beer.
    I pointed to my silver-gray hair and all of the lines in my face and they still wanted to see my ID. They wouldn’t sell me the beer. I was pissed off and left the place.
    I’m 61 years old.

  21. Jesse in Japan says:

    I have a friend who once told me that, when she was five years old, her dad would send her down to the local convenience store to pick up some cigarettes. It was never a problem for her. But, hey, that’s Japan for you. You can still buy cigarettes and liquor from a vending machine.

  22. mrmysterious says:

    How about they stop carding for credit card verification. It violates all the major credit card companies terms of service. There was a consumerist post on it a couple of months ago.

  23. spinfire says:


    I have never had a problem buying alcohol in Mass. with my NH license. The only time I have ever had a hassle out of state was a grocery store in Maine in a tourist town about 30 minutes from the NH border. It was ridiculous – they claimed not taking out of state licenses was the law, but in a town where people come from out of state regularly to ski, I have serious doubts they reject all out of state licenses.

    Either way, they lost my business to a nearby convenience store, and I won’t go back there again. Similarly for any place in MA – not accepting an out of state ID is stupid and it is just going to lose you business.

  24. MystiMel says:

    I hate the credit card verification thing. Last night my mom needed printer cartridges and sent me out to get them with her credit card. She didn’t have $78 in cash and Ofice Depot doesn’t do ATM purchases. They wouldn’t let me use her credit card because they asked for ID and I simply told them I was her daughter and I was running an errand for her. I ended up having to put it on my card and have her pay me back later. Funny though… they let me use her teacher discount card without an ID. *eyeroll* and when I took out the credit card that I said was mine they didn’t make me bring out my ID for it. I should have just pulled out another one of hers. (she has me carry another card for gas and schoolbooks etc.)

  25. CurbRunner says:

    MRMYSTERIOUS AT 10:36 AM said:

    “How about they stop carding for credit card verification. It violates all the major credit card companies terms of service. There was a consumerist post on it a couple of months ago.”

    They can actually match your name on a photo ID to the embedded name on the credit/debit card in case you’ve lost your card and someone else is trying to use it.

    I heard a lawyer recommended that when you get a credit/debit card, that instead of writing your signature on the back of the card you should write “SHOW PHOTO ID” on the signature strip. I’ve done this and found that many more store clerks will then ask for a supporting ID than they did when only a signature was on the card.
    This increases the odds of stopping someone from usuing a stolen or lost card on your dime.

  26. yg17 says:

    I’ve been 21 since March, and I’ve been carded only 2 or 3 times and I don’t look much older either. I hate it because it makes me feel old :D

    Interesting story though…..a few weeks ago, my mom and I were at the grocery store later at night on a Friday (no, I don’t have anything better to do sometimes). The cashier was about 18, the girl in front of us couldn’t have been any older than 18, she looked like she was still in high school. And the only thing she was buying was a case of Natural Light. Poor high school/college students who are going to parties don’t buy the good stuff, they buy the cheap stuff so they can get more of it and have plenty to get shitfaced, and natty light is about as cheap as you can get. And she wasn’t buying anything else, so you know she was on her way to her friends house, not spending $150 on groceries to fill up her pantry to feed her family. Cashier asked her for her ID. Her response…”I uhh….I left it at home, but I bought beer here last week, I promise!” (oldest excuse in the book). The cashier thought it over for a minute, and sold her the beer. We check out, get to the parking lot, and guess who’s parked across from us? And she’s got a bunch of her high school friends in her car and another car. And they’re all outside because her car battery’s dead and they’re jumping it, but I got a good look at them, and none of them could’ve been a day over 18. Needless to say, when we got home, my mom called the store and talked to the manager who seemed genuinely upset about this and said he’d take care of it, so hopefully he did.

  27. hypnotik_jello says:

    hmm… comments are fuxx0red again. Not showing up again.

  28. Trai_Dep says:

    When I got out of school for undergrad, I lived in a VERY skanky neighborhood in SF (a literal crack dealer was my downstairs neighbor). It sounds bad but there were a lot of DJs that lived around there so it was a great neighborhood for that, since I was a promoter.

    I digress. Anyway, addicts, crack dealers, women of questionable morals in hot pants strutting the streets, like something out of a bad TV show. And yup, the localities had a 2-week period when they were checking for liquor store violations. Nice priorities, fellahs!

  29. slowinthefastlane says:

    “I am McLovin”

  30. atalantapendragonne says:

    When I had to take a TABC course a few years back, we were told that the only ID that we could legally accept was a Texas driver’s license or state ID, and if we sold to someone underage, the store would be fined, and the cashier could be charged with a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of a year behind bars.

    No way would I go to prison so some underage ass could get their cheap beer.

  31. RandomHookup says:


    You are right that it’s stupid, but you will find places, especially close to college campuses, that enforce it. Sometimes stupid laws end up on the books and become a pain to get rid off (the Mass. law limiting the number of groceries that could sell beer and wine is an example — the voters rejected the change).

  32. thepounder says:

    @Javert: That’s another in a long list of reasons I now live in TX instead of MA. A license is a license, no matter the state… What next, my TX DL is no longer valid for driving in MA?

    Texas is generally pretty easy on the “und you vill show us your paperz!” thing for alcohol, except in the counties that have just recently become “wet”… there’s still lots of “dry” counties, wherein the old-timey laws still do not allow for selling of any alcohol whatsoever. I’m not a fan of those counties, not one little bit. Pure stupidity.

  33. full.tang.halo says:

    Why would anyone who works somewhere that sells alcohol be willing to risk their job for some random person, get the ID out or your SOL. If you doing like it call a congressman, dont berate the person who isnt willing to get nicked for 4k and a year in jail so you can have your booze.

  34. jesirose says:

    When I got married I actually changed my name on my credit card before my ID. (It’s a lot faster to call the bank than go to the DMV).

    For 6 months I had cashiers ask to see my ID and NOT ONE batted an eye at the fact that the two names were different. The name on my card WAS NOT the name on my ID and they never once denied the purchase. I even have “See ID” written on my credit card.

    It does absolutely NOTHING to prevent fraud. It’s just a waste of time.

  35. Buran says:

    So why the hell DON’T they card you when you charge things? I’ve been SCAMMED several times by people using MY account WITHOUT permission and I don’t appreciate the fact that stores can’t get off their asses and card me while I’m paying with credit but they can card 90 year old women who are OBVIOUSLY legal age to buy booze.

    I always thank clerks when they actually check my ID, but those that do are way too rare. I’m interrogated more when buying cold medicine, which can only hurt me if I screw up, than I am when doing something that, if I’m a cheat, could hurt other people!

  36. SodeDogg says:

    So, does this mean my Illinois DL won’t cut it when I’m in Boston next week?

  37. Buran says:

    @mrmysterious: And as we know, “policy” doesn’t have the force of law, so it’s not enforceable, but I’d rather they carded (see my rant below) when I use credit. Unlike receipt checking stupidity, I’m willing to give up the time for that because it really can do something to protect people. Why’s it so hard?

  38. Buran says:

    @MMD: I think you can say no but then they can refuse to sell. I’d file a complaint with the local BBB, since it IS a legitimate complaint for that kind of forum. If they get enough complaints about invading privacy when they have no need to know, they’ll see business disappearing, and either change their ways or go out of business and someone who respects customers’ privacy will replace them.

  39. alyssariffic says:


    I am 21 and was in Connecticut recently. We had a few large bags of cans and bottles to return, and returned them at a can / bottle machine outside a liquor store. Since I was under 21, they said it was a violation of state law for me to go in the store and redeem the 5 cents per item return.

    My guess is that’s the same reason they won’t let you buy water in a liquor store without an ID. I ended up having to go to a nearby store that accepted the liquor store’s return slips. But I think it was ridiculous.

  40. hellinmyeyes says:

    I usually just put my ID down on the counter when I’m buying XYZ-buyer-age-controlled-product, even when they don’t ask, and I say, “So you don’t lose your job.” How bad would that suck to get busted for not checking the ID of someone who’s obvious or even only slightly questionable with respect to age just because the government officer or the employer was feeling like a dick that day?

  41. Buran says:

    @MystiMel: Good for them. You were using a credit card that wasn’t yours. You were rightly refused, and those of us who have been fraud victims thank the store for things like this. You could have gone elsewhere or used your own card or let her do it herself.

  42. North of 49 says:

    I carded a 60something man once as a joke. I didn’t need to cause I knew him personally, but wanted to make his day. Oops. He was a little miffed, but since I was carding everyone anyway, it was nothing to worry about really.

  43. @MystiMel: Have your mother make you an authorized user of the credit card. The cashier should be able to confirm that you have permission to use the card that way.

  44. samurailynn says:

    I don’t get what the big deal is. If you’re planning on buying alcohol, just pull out your ID and hand it over. Then you don’t have to make the cashier feel uncomfortable, and you get your fix. If you don’t like the age requirement, move to a country that doesn’t have it.

  45. lastfm says:

    Where I work, we have the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) bust people for underage sales. I lost a good friend at work to one of their UCs.

  46. HawkWolf says:

    okay, so you need to be age-verified to buy alcohol. In order to verify your age, you need to show your valid ID. If you don’t verify your age, you can’t buy alcohol legally and the seller can get in trouble.

    …. I’m not seeing the problem here.

    Seriously. You as a customer know the rules and the law, right? You know you need to be 21 and that they may check your ID.

    Whether or not the law is stupid is a different issue, and whether or not it’s inconvenient for them to card people who are old is also irrelevant. What if an old guy drives to a liquor store in his car and refuses to show his ID? What if he doesn’t HAVE his ID on him? Wouldn’t that mean he was driving without his license on him, which is generally not good (you have to produce it within X hours, at least around here, which is a pain since you must drive to city hall.)

  47. RagingBoehner says:


    I was in between Austin and San Antonio and they wouldn’t sell me
    beer at the drive-through liquor store because I had an out of state ID
    (people get confused w/ the DC license). The girl I was with had a US
    passport (doesn’t drive) and they wouldn’t let her buy because she was
    with me. I guess they probably don’t have too many out-of-state people
    in the middle of Texas, but still.

  48. Mike_ says:

    I got carded buying Halo 3 at Meijer last night. It was totally absurd.

  49. Krowa003 says:

    I used to work at a CVS in New York, and on more than one occasion, there were teenagers coming to the register-who actually looked a lot older- and attempted to purchase cigarrettes. After I would refuse sale because no ID was presented upon my request, the teens would leave and then show up with a health department worker who would take down the store’s licese number for his/her report.

  50. julienne says:

    Thanks, Consumerist, for squelching my good mood after getting carded for smokes yesterday. I turn 49 in 2 weeks and was feeling really spiffy after leaving the drugstore.

  51. karmaghost says:

    I’m just going to jump to the end here and comment. I work at a grocery store that sells beer (not at my store, but others in other states) and their policy has changed over the years from “card with discretion” to “card if they look under 30” to the current “card everyone.” That might seem a little excessive, but it’s brought the rate of violations down to 0. Not close to zero, but actually no violations in the past X amount of years (I’m unsure of the exact number).

    @MystiMel: They should have asked for your ID when you used your credit card as well, but they were totally right not letting you use your mom’s, even if you have the same last name. Just because you have the same last name as someone doesn’t mean you’re related to them and it certainly doesn’t mean that you’re in good standing with that person and that they are letting you use it. It’s not like people haven’t had bad divorces where one person goes on a spending spree for spite. If it’s not your card then you shouldn’t be using it, end of story. That’s why your mom’s name is on it and not yours.

  52. Bay State Darren says:

    “Next on Sick Sad World!”
    I love the Daria reference so much I was unable to give a damn about the rest of the article. It would have been too anti-climatic. [For some reason, I idealize the 90’s]

  53. ppiddyp says:

    I knew a guy in high school who was (well) paid by the cops to do these types of stings. He was 15 or 16 but literally looked about 30. Definitely done by local level cops and not feds.

  54. phrygian says:

    Although I’ve never worked anywhere that sold alcohol or tobacco, I did have to card people buying spray paint and industrial solvents. The police tried several times to catch clerks at the store selling that stuff to underage kids (<18). It’s not worth losing your job over, even if the pay is sucky.

    People need to get over their indignity about showing ID for purchases — especially when they know that the clerk has a legal right (responsibility) to check. If I buy beer, I have my ID out (regardless of how old the clerk might think I am).

  55. King of the Wild Frontier says:

    Having lived under the You Vill Show Us Your ID Und You Vill Enchoy It regime for so long, it amazes me to remember the shit that we used to get away with back in the day; a friend of mine used to get into bars with an “Arizona Drivers License” that he typed onto plain uncoated cardstock, no picture or state seal (this was in Illinois, where no one knew what an Arizona DL looked like).

    I think that it started to change sometime in the mid to late eighties, around the time that states had to standardize their drinking age at 21 or lose their federal highway money. Police Boy Scout Explorer units [en.wikipedia.org] would recruit some twenty-year-old kid with a heavy five-o-clock shadow and already-thinning hair who would go around to convenience stores and try to buy beer and give them grief if he was carded; the cops got an easy bust at the expense of some poor slob working for minimum wage. By the early nineties, when I moonlit briefly as a retail clerk at a drugstore with a booze section, it was drilled into our heads to card, card, card. Middle-aged ladies were flattered, teenagers whined. (My fave: “But of course I’m 21! I have a kid!” Good one.)

  56. SOhp101 says:

    To be honest, I could care less if they ask to check ID for alcohol/cigarette purchases. I get a little annoyed when they ask for ID for cc purchases, but at least my wallet’s already out.

    The one that really pisses me off is standing in line to get a receipt checked to leave the store. No thanks, I’ll pass.

  57. mac-phisto says:

    i really have no problem showing ID when asked & there’s a few stores that always ask regardless of age. it’s easier for employers to teach employees to always ask rather than trying to instill discretion, so that doesn’t phase me.

    i do have a HUGE problem with clerks getting lambasted with fines for not carding though – esp. if it’s a discretionary policy. fining someone the equivalent of 2 months worth of wages seems excessive.

    i like pennsylvania’s policy to curb the sale of booze to minors – they place undercover cops at the register in liquor stores* & if you’re caught buying as a minor or for minors, you’re going to jail. going after the buyer is the key – a minor who wants booze or smokes will find a way to circumvent laws & whatever policies a store puts in place to enforce them, so let’s go after the real “criminal” here. let junior explain to mommy why he needs $2000 to pay a fine for buying booze with a fake ID.

    *(pa liquor stores are state-owned, so that’s how they get away with this)

  58. ChChChacos says:

    I used to work at a Walgreens when I was 16. It was illegal for me as a 16 year old to even sell tobacco products, yet I was placed on the front register and told to sell the product. I always checked id and even told my manger I didn’t want to do the job up front- put me elsewhere. I was afraid that I was going to be the one busted for my age, not the tobacco buyers. I ended up quitting after 3 months.

  59. whiterose says:

    Several years ago, before the big crack down on ID’s, I worked at a convenience store in Kentucky. This 9-10 year old kid came in the store and tried to buy chewing tobacco, and I refused to sell it to him. His big ole mean daddy came in and yelled at me and told me the kid had been chewing it for several years, and I better sell it to the kid. Didn’t do it, was in a mean mood that day. Later the owner of the store said something to me about it, but I told him I’m not selling tobacco to a 9 year old. Now, in WAlmart I get carded to buy tobacco and antihistimines, and i’m almost 60. Times have changed.

  60. JayXJ says:

    The funny thing with this is that it is anything containing alchohol or nicotine. A few years ago I was carced buying a box of Nicoderm patches. I looked at the cashier and asked: “You mean you have to check if I’m old enough to quit smoking?”. She just glared at me…

  61. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    What IS it with y’all and showing ID? Why is this such a hard rule to follow, when it was put in place for the betterment of society.

    Stores would rather be safe than sorry. And yes, even if you look 70, you might get carded, because it’s more important for you to experience latent teenage rebellion than for this min. wage worker to lose their job, incur heavy fines, and possibly face incarceration. You’ve got your wallet out anyway: just pull out your ID and enjoy your booze.

    Stores are within their rights to ‘refuse service’ to belligerent customers who refuse to show ID. You don’t want to follow their rules, don’t shop there.

    I swear, if they had failed to card someone underage, y’all would be calling for their heads!

  62. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    @Buran: Word. As annoying as it is (I frequently have to use my ailing parents cards to run errands for them) it’s put in place for a reason. I usually use the debit part of the check card and enter the PIN.

  63. Anitra says:

    I’d rather have stores ID everyone trying to buy age-limited products. Maybe sometimes you want to let off the people with gray hair and wrinkles, but better safe than sorry – unless you can reasonably assume that everyone coming through your door is over 21.

    I have always looked older than my true age (I’m finally catching up now that I’m in my late 20s and still have acne). Looking back, I could have gone and bought beer for my friends as early as 14 with reasonable success. In fact, at that age, I was once asked if I was another 14-year-old’s mother. I was responsible, and brought up to honor the law, but most other kids aren’t. CARD EVERYONE!

  64. Toilet paper is apparently an age-restricted product at my local drug store, and I got GRILLED when I tried to buy the 12-roll package because I NEEDED TOILET PAPER. Apparently I looked like a teenager on my way to TP someone’s house. Jerks.

  65. Anonymous says:

    “Stores would rather be safe than sorry. And yes, even if you look 70, you might get carded, because it’s more important for you to experience latent teenage rebellion than for this min. wage worker to lose their job, incur heavy fines, and possibly face incarceration.”

    How does carding the elderly better society exactly?

  66. thedannimonster says:

    It seems like an annoying waste of money for federal, state, and local agencies to waste so much time on issues such as this, but perhaps they area actually making a cash flow from over-enforcing subjective and not particularly life-threatening (in themselves at least) crimes.

    The owner of a local conveience store got busted for selling beer without asking someone for their identification. The guy he was selling beer to was a regular customer and was of age. The guy behind him was an undercover for the state and immediately stopped both of them and fined the store and cashier. I’m sorry, but that’s completely ridiculous.

    I shop at that store at least once a week. The cashier had no reason to ID me every single time I bought beer or cigarettes because he knew me. Now he has to ID me every single time just in case someone is watching. Life really seems impersonal when you have to provide your ID to people who know you just because “Big Brother” might be lurking.

  67. amoeba says:

    I am 27 yrs old. I get IDed all the time, even when I buy Claritin DS or any over the counter prescription with some sedative. I ask the cashiers what they think How old I am…They always think I am 17 yrs old. I know understand why, here in Utahrd, people treat me as a teenager :@

  68. MercuryPDX says:

    When I was a bartender at a local watering hole, we had to worry about “Project 21”. The County PD would hire Junior Detetctives (aka. 19 and 20 year olds who wanted to be cops) to go into stores and bars and attempt to purchase alcohol w/o ID. IMHO, it was entrapment… pure and simple. These “agents” were from out of town and stuck out like a sore thumb. When one appeared, bartenders would call each other (out of professional courtesy) to put out a warning.

    One night I get a call, so I keep my eyes peeled. In walks and 18 or 19 y.o. girl, boobs out to “here” in a low cut shirt, tarted out in enough makeup to make a Bratz doll look like an Ivory girl. She came right up to the bar and hefted her cleavage at me while asking “What do you have on tap?”. I run down the list, and she settles on Coors light. I draw the beer, walk back, and hold it in my hand. “You wouldn’t happen to have ID on you, would you?”. “Umm.. no. [Boob waggle, blinky eyes]” (Shocker!). I proceed to pour the beer into the slop sink and say “Sorry… Guess you’ll just have to move on down the strip and find another sucker. Try to be less obvious next time because ‘boobs’ in the face doesn’t work on everyone.”

    That Saturday, another bartender in my place got caught right at the 6:30 shift change. He was arrested, taken out in a grand spectacle of flashing lights and handcuffs. He was in the crime watch of the paper the next day for “Contributing to the delinquency of a minor”.

    I generally carded anyone who appeared under 30, and/or wasn’t a recognizable local or regular. The policy became “anyone under 40” after the one arrest.

  69. D-Bo says:

    I worked in a convenience store a few years back and it was policy to card anyone who looked under 35 for alcohol or tobacco (apparently I could sell the porno mags to anybody). I worked graveyard and it was an out of the way store, so I rarely had problems. The local kids knew another store policy which was never interfere with theft so they would just come in grab a case and run. It really just made it easier for all of us.

    I currently have a buddy who runs a few bars here in Oregon and they are required to check everyone for ID. The requirement being that you must be 21 and be in possession of ID proving such.

    Our state heavily regulates (and taxes) the sale of alcohol. The only liquor that can be purchased outside of a state run liquor store or bar is beer and wine. You can’t even enter a liquor store or bar if you are under 21.

  70. MercuryPDX says:

    @bnet41: “Project 21” was the County PD working in conjunction with the SLA (State Liquor Authority).

    @Javert: It >IS< in your hands because no matter what happens to your employer, you’ll get arrested. Your company should have provided you training on how to recognize it’s stated ID limit. If they didn’t, it’s in your best interest to ask everyone. Do it disarmingly: “I’m sorry to have to ask, but can I see your ID. My manager is doing spot checks today, and I really don’t want to get in trouble.”

    @Murph1908: Anhauser-Busch also provided us a free photographic guide to Drivers Licenses and State issued ID cards for the US and Canada. So your faked “Virginia Drivers License” wouldn’t get you served either…. 2 minutes looking through a book or a night in jail is a no brainer. If it looked the least bit suspicious, we’d ask for a second ID. If one couldn’t be produced, we confiscated it and told them to pick it up at the police station the next day.

    @full.tang.halo: That’s exactly it.

  71. Anonymous says:

    In Illinois, you are asked to card everyone that looks under 35.
    Personally, I used to card every one. Period.
    Now, if someone comes in that looks 65, you don’t have to card them. There is no law that says that you must card everyone.

  72. Maeg says:

    Chiming in late with my two cents–

    Places that card: bars, liquor stores, tobacco shops, convenience stores, grocery stores, video game stores…

    Yes, video game stores. Used to work at GameStop, where you had to card ANYONE who was buying an M rated game. I didn’t care if you looked 16 or 60 – I asked you for your ID. Not only was that the rule, but in my mind at least, it was fair. Not just picking and choosing because of how old I thought they looked.

    Usually, when someone obviously older than 18 (wrinkles, gray hair, balding, etc.) came in, and I carded them, I’d crack a joke about it – “You must be mistaken ma’am – you certainly couldn’t be fifty-eight!” They’d usually smile, and– “See? Lookit that smile!”

    That smoothed the way for me telling them that, really, I carded everyone – it was fair and equitable. No one gave me shit for it, either.

  73. Buran says:

    @lawnmowerdeth: Cigarettes I’d agree. Booze, no, because of all the idiot drunk drivers.

  74. Onouris says:

    Isn’t a grocery store not selling ANYTHING to anyone under 21 discrimination?

  75. StevieD says:

    The stores can card everybody or anybody. Their house, their rules. As long as the policy is applied equally and without discrimination they can have any rule that they want that allows them to comply with age limitation laws.

    Regarding the stores that refuse service to anybody below the legal age, regardless of the product being purchased:

    Actually it is a business policy that prevents a clerk from selling an unauthorized product to somebody underage. Since there are products that “might” be alcohol free and there are products that “seem” to be alcohol free and then there are the products that are “oh my gosh that has alcohol in it”, it places a great deal of stress and liability on the clerk. By carding everybody and prohibiting the sale of ANYThing to somebody under age, the store is erring on the side of caution.

  76. StevieD says:


    No discrimination. Discrimination rules would apply if the store let one class, group etc etc below the age limit purchase some products, while prohibiting another class, group etc etc from purchasing the products.

    As the store is prohibiting the sale of anything to anybody below the legally appropriate age of some of the products in the store there can be no discrimination.

  77. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

    @Darren666: How does it hurt?

  78. EvilSquirrel says:

    What I have really found to be unfair is the way the laws treat the people selling these products. If the kids get caught buying underage, they usually get stuck with a few hundred dollars in fines and court costs, plus a weekend picking up trash on the road. Now for the store employee, they get stuck with a few thousand dollars in fines, their face in the newspaper, and they usually lose their job. Even worse off is the store owners, who end up with tens of thousands in fines, potentially losing their license to sell alcohol and tobacco, and going out of business as the worse case scenario.

    This does nothing to solve teaching kids to drink responsibly and about the dangers of tobacco products. Even worse, is that many states will even imprison parents who do offer their kids a safe and responsible place to drink in. So instead of learning how to have a few beers or glasses of wine at meals, or even how to handle yourself at cocktail party, kids get to learn how to chug Popov and Natty Lite until they vomit and stop breathing at some friend’s house. Oh and the person who gets in trouble with the law for that is the one who bought the booze.

    It’s all about making the state money in fines and being able to say they are making progress in the war on underage drinking. High school kids are still drinking and this fact of life will most likely continue until the end of time.

  79. Jesse in Japan says:

    @amoeba: They have to card everyone who buys Claritin, and it’s not an age thing. It’s because you can use Claritin to make methamphetamines and they want to keep track of who’s buying the stuff.

  80. Hambriq says:

    @Jesse in Japan: They have to card everyone who buys Claritin, and it’s not an age thing. It’s because you can use Claritin to make methamphetamines and they want to keep track of who’s buying the stuff.

    Sudafed (pseudoephedrine), not Claritin. Claritin is just an antihistamine. Pseudoephedrine is an amphetamine precursor.

  81. Jesse in Japan says:

    @Hambriq: Hambriq, when I was in America two months ago for a friend’s wedding, I got some Claritin to take back with me to Japan. The pharmacist made me write down my name and driver’s license number in a registry. He explained that it was because people could use Claritin to make crystal meth and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation wanted to know who was buying it. Now, I don’t know that he wasn’t lying, but he’s been my family pharmacist for ages, so I took his word for it.

  82. Onouris says:


    Except age discrimination, and not letting people under a certain age buy anything at all?

    If a company decided never to employ someone above a certain age because they’re too old, that would be discrimination.

  83. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:


    I have seen some places where if you want Claritin-D, you have to someone behind the counter. I’m not a pharmacist, but I’m guessing it’s because of the decongestant it contains?

  84. Hambriq says:

    Claritin is loratadine, a totally benign decongestant.

    Claritin-D contains loratadine and pseudoephedrine. Pseudoephedrine is Sudafed. Acambras is correct; because of the decongestant in Claritin-D, you have to present your driver’s license to the pharmacist and they record all your info, etc. etc. etc. Basically, anything with pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) in it. This includes Claritin-D, Allegra-D, Mucinex-D (a total ripoff, by the way), Advil Cold + Sinus, Sudafed (not Sudafed PE), Drixoral, all the store-brand equivalents of these, and countless more I’m probably leaving off.

    Factually speaking, Jesse in Japan is wrong, but I understand the confusion. It’s the “D” in Claritin-D that forces you to buy it behind the counter. Either the pharmacist was misinformed, or wasn’t clear enough that it was the “D” in Claritin-D that was being used to make meth, or something was lost in the translation.

    I’m not trying to condescend at all, especially because I know that these distinctions can be very confusing. I just want to clarify.

  85. YoHenYo says:

    I work as at a customer service desk @ a big super market, and I had a very young girl try and buy cigarettes, I told her I needed an ID, because some old people really do look young.

    She did have an ID so she got no cigarettes. The next “customer” was an agent who made me sign a bunch of papers stating that I did not sell cigarettes to a minor, and that the store passed some test.

  86. Jesse in Japan says:

    @Hambriq: You’re right. It was Claritin D.

  87. angryparent says:

    Who do I report a store that sells cigarettes to minors, concerned parent in Pa.?

  88. RedSonSuperDave says:

    As a former convenience store worker, I can definitely sympathize. I used to ID all my customers, and tell any who objected that, “I have to enter the DOB from your license. If I don’t, a red flag pops up on the receipt saying I didn’t ID you, and when the manager comes in in the morning I’ll lose my job.”

    I don’t like lying to people like that, but I’m not too keen on getting a $500 fine, losing my job, and going to jail because I made a sale to a 20-year-old undercover agent who looked 27.