I had just skipped the cash register’s age prompt for a woman buying wine. Standing at my shoulder was my tutor, the czarina of Checkout Seven, who said, oh, what are you doing? “You always ask for ID. If you don’t ask, and it’s a liquor agent, it’s a $1,000 fine – on you.”
The government demand for proof of age long ago failed as a control on alcohol. But it’s the law, which means that pushing a six-pack across an optical scanner turns a $7.85-an-hour grocery clerk into an unpaid agent for the Ohio Liquor Control Commission. No state benefits, but a screw-up brings the hammer. A $1,000 fine equals at least 127 minimum-wage hours.
The czarina has pronounced me trained, so now I get called out the floral department at least once a shift to run a checkout. Last week, a lady with 21 well back in the rearview mirror bought a pack of Bud, and my request for ID got her all silly, “This is just so exciting!” Dear Customers: Getting carded is merely a legal requirement to buy booze. Really – don’t read any more into it.
Then a balding, paunchy man stepped up with two bottles of red. I asked for ID, and his core melted. “Are you crazy? I’m a good customer here!” He threatened never to come back. When I reported on this exchange later, the czarina said, “He ought to know better. Don’t worry. He’ll be back.” A week later, he waved to me as he walked into the store.
Here’s the lucky thing: As an unrepentant snoop, I dig looking at people’s IDs. But there has to be a way to make the ridiculous but necessary exchange less ambiguous for everyone. Suggestions cordially invited.
Causes Anne Saker Supports
Freedom of thought.