During the weeks and months preceding the holidays, it is common for law enforcement agencies to conduct sting operations in retail stores that sell liquor and tobacco products. These stings are generally done by using an underage decoy, with their own legal form of identification that is closely monitored by a law enforcement agent that acts as a witness to the sale. Many times there is a third witness that will film the entire transaction from several feet away. Their job is to trick you, by using an underage decoy, that appears to look over the legal age (18 for tobacco and 21 for liquor), into selling them cigarettes or booze.

The penalty can be very serious for both selling tobacco and/or liquor to a minor. First, you are faced with a citation that can cost several hundreds of dollars that you are responsible to pay. Second, you may either face a long suspension or more likely a termination of your employment. Third, you may be required to go to court and your employer may have their liquor license suspended or revoked. Remember, you are responsible for the cost of the citation whether or not you lose your job.

Most of the companies have put safeguards into place to remind the cashier to ask for I.D. Either the register will lock up, or a beep will prompt you to ask or look at the customer to determine if you need to ask for I.D. Some companies have computer programs that allow you to scan the license or enter in the birthdates in order to proceed. But even with these safeguards, we still see our members in trouble for selling to a minor. One reason is because we are in such a hurry to check out customers that we use shortcuts such as simply hitting the clear key to override the system. Most companies also have policies that require the cashier to ask for I.D when a customer appears to look under 30 or 35 years of age. This is a great tool to assist you in knowing when to question the customer for I.D., but instead we take a quick glance and hit the clear key again.

Use all of the safeguards that your company has put into place and be extremely careful this holiday season. Do not try and guess at someone’s age; if they look under 35, don’t be embarrassed to ask for I.D. If you are presented with I.D that is questionable or appears to be tampered with in any way, call for a manager and refuse to sell. You have a right to protect your job and refuse to sell if the I.D that is presented appears to be altered.

Please don’t let this happen to you! Don’t take shortcuts; your job depends on it.