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Man, 82, Carded Buying Beer

Weis, Wegmans explain corporate policy on liquor sales

Senior citizen Dale Schneck of Schnecksville reached into the beer cooler at Weis Market along Route 873 in North Whitehall Township, took out a 12-pack and presented it to clerk Linda Henninger for purchase.

“I’ll need your driver’s license,” she said.

“Don’t think I’m old enough?” frowned the 82-year-old Schneck as he opened his wallet.

Henninger explained that everyone who wants to buy alcoholic beverages at Weis, regardless of age, must present a driver’s license or a valid photo ID.

As Schneck attempted to show her the license that was still in the wallet, she said, “I’ll need it out of the wallet, because I have to run it through the register.”

Schneck struggled to remove the license from its plastic prison, but the license would not come free. After nearly two minutes of tugging and pushing, a frustrated Schneck said, “Ah, the heck with it; I’ll just go to the beer distributor.”

“You’re going to have to do the same thing there,” Henninger told him.

In response to a question about the awkward encounter, Henninger admitted that the state does not require driver’s licenses to be run through the cash register for verification. “It’s a Weis policy, but it will be a state law very soon,” she said.

A sign prominently posted at the café register where alcoholic beverages must be purchased contradicted what Henninger said. “Due to state and company regulations and policies,” the sign says, “anyone purchasing alcohol must present a valid photo ID, regardless of age.”

State Liquor Control Board counsel Jim Mayer says the sign is inaccurate, at least as far as the state requirement goes. Mayer said there is a pending bill in the state legislature affecting Philadelphia only, but, he says he sees nothing on the horizon for such a statewide mandate.

“This is an internal Weis policy,” Mayer says, adding that Wegmans has a similar 100 percent carding policy.

As it turned out, Schneck went to the Liberty Bell Beer Distributor just off Route 309 in North Whitehall Township and made the purchase without incident.

Weis’ Schnecksville store manager John Hegger confirmed his store’s corporate-wide policy, although he says Schneck could have probably been helped with the purchase if the clerk had called a manager. “We do make occasional exceptions and probably would have done so in this case,” Hegger says.

“I didn’t want to cause the clerk any problems if that’s the policy, and I didn’t want to hold up the line,” said Schneck in explaining why he didn’t pursue the issue.

Hegger also checked on the wording of the Weis sign and agreed that it is inaccurate. “We’ll change it immediately to indicate that this is company policy, not a state requirement,” Hegger says.

Dennis Curtin, Weis’ director of public relations at its Sunbury headquarters, says the carding policy is to make sure there are no slip-ups on the part of cashiers and to protect the company from liability issues. He says the information captured from the driver’s license is kept by Weis for seven years in case any liability issues occur. He adds, however, that none of the captured information is used for marketing or other purposes.

At Wegmans' Tilghman Street store, café manager Chrissie Remaly says the 100 percent carding policy is to “take the guess work out of it for the cashiers.” Sometimes there is a 19-year-old with a full beard who might look over 21, she explains.

She admits that customers who have not seen age 21 for many, many moons consider it an inconvenience, even an annoyance. Remaly says for customers who do not want their driver’s licenses run through the special electronic reader that Wegmans uses to verify age, a cashier will type in the information.

"How do I know what personal stuff that reader is capturing?” asks Stacy Gooding of Coopersburg, an occasional Wegmans customer. Remaly says the reader verifies age only and does not capture other information on the license or ID

“No, the state doesn’t require us to do this; it is a corporate policy,” Remaly says.

A spokeswoman in consumer affairs at Wegmans' corporate office in Rochester, N.Y., confirmed the policy. She says if an obviously older-looking person doesn’t have photo ID and insists on buying alcoholic products, the local store’s management can override the policy at its discretion.

Richard Barrett July 04, 2011 at 07:19 PM
With all due respect to people who believe that they are identifiably of legal age, I have little-to-no sympathy for people who feel inconvenienced by ID policies. I have been on the side of the counter that is required to check those IDs, and had people -- generally older men with a humongous sense of entitlement -- choose to publicly ruin my day because I was following the policy I was trained to follow. I sincerely question Mr. Schneck's assertion about not wanting to cause the clerk problems over policy, because clearly he decided that it was something worth making a media case over. If it's really that much of an inconvenience to pull out your driver's license, get a different wallet. In Indiana, it is state law that ID must be shown for all alcohol purchases, and every time a cashier asks to see mine, I pull it out with a smile (incidentally, I'm 34) and I thank them for asking. Either that, or I pull it out in advance and hand it to them as I approach the register saying, "I think you want to see this." Much ado over freaking nothing.
Debra July 05, 2011 at 02:54 AM
Couldn't agree more, the clerk was doing their job let them be. People should be grateful that clerks do ask for ID no matter the age it means that they are doing their job & keeping underage people from drinking. I can quite remember many moons ago that I was asked what I'd like from the bar while at a restaurant to only stammer due to the fact I was only 16 at the time. There should be no guess work in serving or selling alcohol in any case. If he truly didn't want to make this a hassle I totally question why there's even an article? Apparently he felt something needed to be done about this and contacted someone. Can't agree anymore with Richard up there Much ado about nothing
Penny Cope July 05, 2011 at 11:07 AM
I really that even if it is a rule that employees have to follow it should be an exception that if the person looks way over the age that is isnt necssary...true some young look older then they are but I am talking when one looks very much older....
Richard Barrett July 05, 2011 at 01:43 PM
@Penny Cope: That *sounds* reasonable, certainly, but discretion is, frankly, not in the job description or the pay grade for the person working the cash register. I worked for my dad's office supply business growing up, and something I heard him say a number of times -- to me and to his adult employees -- was "You're here to do the job I told you to do. You aren't paid enough to think." My impression is that this is simply standard operating procedure for retail operations, and it seems to me that is a mindset that sees authority to make these kinds of judgment calls at the lower rungs of the ladder as leaving too many links in the chain where things can go wrong. It may well be profoundly silly, but it's at least in part because (if Indiana is any indication) people in the Midwestern states are becoming more anxious in general about what can go wrong with alcohol purchases, not less.
Veronica July 05, 2011 at 05:05 PM
What is chilling here is now the information of who buys beer, how much, and when will be kept for seven years. That's ridiculous and unnerving to me. Do we just sit complacently while our freedoms get trounced upon? It seems so.

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