Here in the UK we have scheme called Challenge 21 which was introduced to prevent young people gaining access to age restricted products including cigarettes and alcohol. Under the scheme, customers attempting to buy age-restricted products are asked to prove their age if in the retailer’s opinion they look under 21, even though the minimum age to buy alcohol and cigarettes in the UK is 18. The scheme was launched in 2005 in an outlet selling cut price alcohol in a pub style environment.
By 2011 all four of the main supermarkets in the UK had also adopted the scheme. Mind you, they each have had differing levels of success in operating it. Some of them have challenged adults who are quite clearly over 21 but because they have a child with them, they want the customer to prove they are not buying the product for the child to consume.
Now, how do you do that at a check-out?
I have visions of the adult downing a whole bottle of gin whilst packing the shopping just so the check-out assistant knows who the product is for!
I realise the selling of tobacco and alcohol to underage customers is an issue, and I certainly would struggle to tell the age of some of the youngsters in pubs these days (ooh, don’t I sound old!) but sometimes supermarkets do put themselves in awkward situations.
Why is it they utilise under age assistants at the check-outs when they can’t sell alcohol or tobacco to those who are old enough to purchase it without calling for authorisation?
Today, my check-out experience hit a new low as I tried to make a simple purchase. At least I thought it was simple!
Now, it has been 30 years since I could claim to be under 21, and I know there isn’t a lighting condition in the world available in which I could pass for under 21 – not even pitch black – and I really wasn’t expecting to be challenged this morning. So, when the sirens started sounding as I presented my item at the check-out, I looked the assistant up and down in disbelief. They were quite obviously over 21 themselves, so shouldn’t have needed to obtain authorisation and yet the point of sale system was demanding it.
I checked my basket, which only had two items in it, and neither was alcohol or tobacco. Indeed, neither was a knife which also comes under the challenge 21 remit. In fact, one of the items was a bag of onions. Now, I know they can make you cry when cutting them and can make ones breath smell if eaten raw, but surely these are not considered to be worthy of a challenge?
No, it was my other item which was causing the challenge – here is a photo of the label:
So, there you are, if like me you are over 21 but still want to be challenged, buy some alcohol free wine – it’ll make your day. That is until you have to drink the stuff!