What shall I gripe about today?

23 02 2010

For the sake of arguement here, I just snapped this photo as I am right now.  I don’t normally do that because well, I’m not very pleased at having pictures of my frizzy curls and second chin and dark circles out floating about the internet – but it serves a purpose for this rant.  I’m 34.  Now I can’t say that I look 34, but I know I damn sure don’t look 17 – the age I would need to be to be illegally buying cigarettes.

I went to buy cigarettes today (yes, I know, for shame) but nonetheless, I was carded.

Again, I’m 34.  I don’t look 17.

So I asked the clerk, do I look 17? She paused and stuttered – which I should add is the typical response to this question that I ask every time I am carded.  Well, no, was her ultimate answer.  Do you realize I would need to be 17 to be illegally purchasing cigarettes? Well you look really young.  That was her argument.  How young do I look? Young.  Do I look 17, I asked again.  No.  I selected my military ID to provide her and watched her examine the front of it fully and hand it back to me, satisfied I was of age, and completed my sale.  So how old am I? I asked her.  She stuttered again, she laughed, she couldn’t remember.  What year was I born in? She had forgotten.

I pulled my military ID out again and proudly began my rant.

This ID is expired, ten years expired.  And my birth information is on the back, which you never looked at.  She began to explain how they have to card anyone under thirty – it’s the law.  But I’m over thirty.  But she didn’t know that to begin with.  You still don’t – the only ID you’ve seen is an expired military ID from ten years ago (actually more than that because it was valid for two years – issued in 1998) and my birth date was on the back, which you never even looked at. She didn’t have much to say, giggled nervously and told me to have a nice day.  I told her I was calling ATF agents about it and smiled before leaving.

I probably didn’t need to be such a bitch, but if you are going to enforce a policy, especially one that involves checking identification, you probably should at least know what you are looking at/for.

This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered this ordeal with a similar set of circumstances and outcomes, but today I felt compelled to write about it.  Partly because my daughter saw me sitting down to type and asked what I was going to gripe about today.  (Am I that predictable?)  But in twelve years or so of doing this, I’ve only once had anyone tell me my card is expired and only twice had anyone actually flip it over to look for my information.  These store clerks like to think they are the next J Edgar, laying down a law and standing between you and freedom.  And while I am all for stopping underage sales (lord knows I wish I didn’t have this damn habit), if you can’t tell the authenticity or validity of the identification presented, then you shouldn’t even bother trying.  It only makes you look like an even bigger idiot.  Granted, some stores at least have the date and year calendar handy with a nice catchy slogan like “If you weren’t born before February 23, 1993, you cannot purchase tobacco” so that the clerk has a reference point, but many do not.  I wonder how many know the cut off year for legal purchases or am I to believe that the local 7-11 lad can subtract 17 from 2010 in his head?

The most critical parts of an ID are the expiration date, the birth date and that the photograph matches the person presenting it.  You should also run your fingers along the surface of it to check for pin pricks (used to allow a needle to scratch out parts of a date to alter the data) and odd thickness (as some people will replace a picture on a stolen ID with their own and then re-laminate the card, creating an uneven ridge in the card).  If you are merely going through the motions for the security camera, you may get a bitch like me in your store who will call you out on it, and contact the local ATF branch office.  Ask your manager how important their alcohol and tobacco license is to their store and then learn how to properly check IDs!

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