Well, now there’s something that doesn’t happen to me every day–or every week. Or every month. Or every year, at least not for quite a while.

Last night I stopped at our local supermarket to pick up a couple of things, one of which was a six pack of one of my favorite local brews. As the guy behind the counter checked me out, something happened that I haven’t had happen to me in at least a decade.

He asked to see my ID.

The only explanation I can think of is that I was wearing a hat the covered up my graying hair, but, even so, I don’t think my face has looked as though I might be under 21 (or even under 30) for quite some time. I suspect when he saw the year I was born he was probably rather surprised.

The last time I was carded, I was at a Cubs game, oddly enough. I was wearing a baseball cap then. Maybe there’s a pattern.

Or maybe I just couldn’t think of anything worthwhile to blog about today; so I picked this. Oh, well. There’s always tomorrow.


  1. #1 Greg Laden
    November 23, 2008

    I like the idea that this blog post is a kind of confirmation bias.

    Anyway, I’m sure you look very young for your age and stuff, but you should check the news to see if any grocery stores in your area have recently gotten in trouble for selling beer to underage patrons! Perhaps you were the victim of a hastily implemented draconian policy.

  2. #2 Orac
    November 23, 2008

    True, it could be something like this, which I remembered just a few minutes after I published this…:-)

  3. #3 The Science Pundit
    November 23, 2008

    To add to Greg’s comment, automation might also have something to do with it. For example, when a six-pack of beer (or anything else that’s entered in the database as alcoholic) is scanned, the register will stop, give the cashier instructions that he/she must check ID, then wait for confirmation before continuing. Some programs even require the cashier to enter the driver’s license # of the customer. I assume that that is to “cover their asses” as well as discourage the cashier from hitting the confirmation button without actually checking ID.

  4. #4 MercurianFerret
    November 23, 2008

    Science Pundit is right about his point. However, I’ve seen cashiers just punch in a birthdate that is “old enough” to let the person purchase the alcohol.

    Orac – as for your gray hair, remember that some people have gray hair from relatively early age. Steve Martin, for example.

  5. #5 Spook
    November 23, 2008

    I rarely have been carded for alcohol since turning 21.

    However, I have frequently been carded for *gasp!* movies rated higher than PG-13 and the vast majority of video games that I’ve purchased.

    No, it doesn’t make sense to me either.

    WRT automation at cash registers, the policy where I used to work was to card if they looked under a certain age (30 or so) just to be safe. If they were clearly of age, then cashiers just punched in “November 22, 1933.” State laws and store policies vary a great deal, but I did err on the side of caution *a lot*… as well as carding someone who was a rude prick once in a while 😛

  6. #6 The Science Pundit
    November 23, 2008

    If they were clearly of age, then cashiers just punched in “November 22, 1933.”

    OK, it took me a few seconds: 112233 Easy to type.

  7. #7 Ann
    November 23, 2008

    Perhaps the store has had some under aged issues.

    It’s easier just to instruct cashiers to card everyone than to expect them to decide who to card or not.

    From an audit perspective a string of just old enough or the same birthdays entered into a terminal does not look like a store is doing a very diligent job.

  8. #8 jay
    November 23, 2008

    My wife recently had a cashier express apparently genuine surprise when her ID showed her birth year as 1959. I think it made her day.

  9. #9 Bronze Dog
    November 23, 2008

    Never been carded (except for stuff I pay with checks) and I haven’t hit 30 yet. Of course, the near-complete lack of “mature” purchases for me probably covers that. Teetotaler, almost never buy M-rated games, and I can get other stuff online.

  10. #10 Charlene
    November 23, 2008

    As an instructor of ID trainings, the question I ask my students is “How much are you willing to bet on the customers age?”. The fact is fines for the clerk can range up to $2500 for selling alcohol to an underage person, and worst yet, possible jail time along with a criminal record. Usually when you take these things in consideration most sellers of alcohol aren’t willing to wager anything on your age, so they card. Bravo, perhaps the person they stop from purchasing alcohol next time is your child, or grandchild.

  11. #11 Moses
    November 23, 2008

    A few years ago I had to buy beer for my dad because he’d left his wallet at the hotel.

    I’m 47.

    The fact is that many stores have adopted a 100% ID check policy. It doesn’t hurt and it sure helps to stop idiot employees making casual sales to minors and exposing the stores and the children to criminal and civil sanctions.

    Sure, there are ways to get around that. Any clever teenager can. I know I sure did.

    But IDing everyone it costs you nothing. And if it keeps a few teens sober and alive, what the hell, the inconvenience is worth it.

  12. #12 Kristjan Wager
    November 23, 2008

    Bravo, perhaps the person they stop from purchasing alcohol next time is your child, or grandchild.

    You know what, I bought and drank beer back when I was in eight grade, i.e. when I was fourteen. Doesn’t seem to have harmed me any.

    Until fairly recently, children of any age could buy beer, wine, or alcohol in Danish shops – it’s only within the last decade they’ve started enforcing laws to keep minors from buying stuff like that in shops. Laws which apparently have been on the books always, but which no one knew existed. Now you have to be sixteen to buy alcohol (the same age you have to be to buy pornography – tobacco purchases isn’t allowed until you turn eighteen). In bars, you can’t be served before you’re eighteen.

    I am not saying that there is anything wrong in having laws keeping young people from drinking (though I take issue with the idea that people should be able to sign up for killing people before they can legally buy a beer), but I won’t pretend that I see a huge problem in kids drinking in moderation. I think it’s more important to teach children to drink responsible (e.g. don’t drink and drive), than to try to keep them from drinking.

  13. #13 Joe
    November 23, 2008

    My brother was carded when was in his 30s. He lifted his hat, revealing his bald pate, and that worked.

  14. #14 Matt Springer
    November 23, 2008

    “as for your gray hair, remember that some people have gray hair from relatively early age. Steve Martin, for example.”

    Not just gray either. Patrick Stewart was bald from about 19.

  15. #15 ole
    November 23, 2008

    I’m 37 and moved to the US a year ago. I previously lived (and drank!) in the UK (age 33-36) and Canada (age 30-33) and Denmark (0-30). The only country I have ever been ID’ed in is the US, 4 times in the year I’ve lived here. Twice in grovery stores, twice in bars (where they sure don’t enter the birth date anywhere).

  16. #16 Marilyn Mann
    November 23, 2008


  17. #17 Sastra
    November 23, 2008

    Don’t feel too flattered (or insulted.) Some grocery stores have made it their official policy to card everyone. Absolutely and without exception, every single time. The employees have no choice; they need to enter a birth date on a form. This is the case with my local Pick’nSave. You could be 90 years old and riding a motorized cart, and if you don’t have your ID with you, you’re out of luck.

    The employees have told me they’re not happy about this. Some other stores have a sign which says “We card everyone under 30.” That seems more reasonable.

  18. #18 Samantha Vimes
    November 23, 2008

    I’m 38. Old enough that when they card me, I grin, even if I have to say I’ll make my purchase another time, because I forgot my ID.

  19. #19 Suze
    November 23, 2008

    I’m 51, look at least that, and the last barely-legal Krogers clerk that asked for my ID got an earful. The sad part was a few weeks earlier a somewhat older clerk asked if I qualified for the senior discount. At some point common sense (and respect for your elders) has to kick in.

  20. #20 Chris H.
    November 23, 2008

    Orac, you are in good company. The 61 year old governor of Washington was also carded:

  21. #21 Jim Thomerson
    November 23, 2008

    I am 73, and envy all who get carded. I recall buying beer in a grocery store in Illinois. The register clerk was a teenager who would call over an older clerk or manager to hit the total button and make the sale. After a while, I think it got OK for teenagers to sell beer, but not OK to buy it. I understand in Texas you have to show a Texas driver’s license. A passport or out of state license does not do the trick.

  22. #22 Nomen Nescio
    November 23, 2008

    perhaps in Illinois it’s okay for minor cashiers to sell alcohol, but up here in the benighted backwoods of Michigan one still sees signs at the end of the checkout lines about the cashier being underage – no alcohol, tobacco, or lottery tickets across their counters. exactly what real good this is supposed to do anybody, i have never understood.

    (hmm, come to think of it, it’s been a little while since i saw one of those signs. if the policy’s changed, it was within the last year or so.)

    i’ve got to remember bringing my passport the next time i go to buy a sixpack. i look younger than the mid-thirties i am, so i almost always get carded. i’m fairly sure they’ll take passports, but i haven’t actually tried it, and now i won’t get any peace until i do.

  23. #23 CanadianChick
    November 23, 2008

    I was never carded until I turned 23 (was legal here at 19, started going to bars – mostly for the music – at about 16).

    I virtually never get carded at home, but frequently get carded in the US. I know I don’t look 40, but it still makes me LOL. I usually say something like “bless your furry little heart” and hand them my ID, which usually confuses them – our drivers licences have a bunch of security measures built into them like holograms and whatnot…

  24. #24 David Harmon
    November 23, 2008

    Mat Springer: Yeah, but Patrick Stewart lost all his hair at once (to illness)! That can, unfortunately, happen at any age….

    I have severe Male Pattern Baldness, and have rarely been carded since I was 16. I have, once or twice, lifted my hat in lieu of pulling the card. 😉 Otherwise, it’s usually a 100% policy, so I don’t get bugged about it.

  25. #25 DuWayne
    November 23, 2008

    My partner got fired from a convenience store after she got hit by a incompany sting. They sent someone in their early forties through and she didn’t card him (they didn’t say anything that time). So they sent someone else through, who was in her early thirties – this time for cigarettes. She didn’t card her and the women turned around and walked out the door and then came back in moments later with a manager to let her know she was being let go and why. They didn’t even let her finish her shift, the women who played the part of the customer finished it for her.

    The policy for that chain, is that if they are old enough that it is quite obvious to any idiot, then they will probably appreciate the gesture. If not, then you explain that your job is on the line.

  26. #26 Aerik
    November 24, 2008

    I get carded for things every time I go clean-shaven.

  27. #27 storkdok
    November 24, 2008

    I got carded last week at Walmart. I thanked the cashier.

  28. #28 marilove
    November 24, 2008

    Suze, what was the point of giving a cashier who is just doing his job an earful for … carding you? Just hand him your ID. You should have your ID on you at all times anyway, and if you don’t, that’s not his fault. He was likely told by his manager to card at all times, because it’s just easier that way and keeps from accidently forgetting and allowing someone underage buy alcohol, which can result in HUGE fines for the stores.

    Don’t be an ass just because you can. It would have been a lot quicker just to show your ID than it was to “give him an earful” anyway.

  29. #29 marilove
    November 24, 2008

    And Suze … would you like a cashier to get fired for not carding you just because you get upset over … being carded? Read DuWayne’s post for an example.

  30. #30 jayh
    November 24, 2008

    I find it annoying as hell, and will likely go somewhere else next time.
    I strongly resent being interrogated, or NEEDING to identify myself, and find it especially annoying because it’s a product of CYA lawyers in intrusive government.

  31. #31 jo
    November 24, 2008

    FYI, Bought 3 bottles of wine at same store a few days earlier and NOT carded.

  32. #32 The Science Pundit
    November 24, 2008

    Posted by: David Harmon

    Yeah, but Patrick Stewart lost all his hair at once (to illness)! That can, unfortunately, happen at any age….

    What illness would that be? Male Pattern Baldness?? I don’t seem to recall him talking about any illness. If I’m wrong, please point me to the evidence.

  33. #33 Rogue Epidemiologist
    November 24, 2008

    I was meeting up with friends at a bar & grill some weeks ago. They had all their drinks on the table along with snacks. I sit down to order a beer, and the waiter cards me. Then he proceeds to card the rest of the table because if I look young enough to card, possibly one of them might also be underage as well. My buddy turns to me and says, “Gee thanks! Ruin it for the rest of us.”

    We’re all over 21 anyway.

    Of course, when you make a habit of wearing a pirate hat to pubs, you can be assured that the staff will err on the lower estimate of age. Surely no adult in his/her right mind would act so childishly?

  34. #34 Graculus
    November 24, 2008

    Not just gray either. Patrick Stewart was bald from about 19.

    He had (some) hair in I, Claudius and Lady Jane, so I’d say you were wrong.

  35. #35 HCN
    November 24, 2008

    The Science Pundit said “What illness would that be? Male Pattern Baldness?? I don’t seem to recall him talking about any illness. If I’m wrong, please point me to the evidence.”

    Just an anecdote, not evidence, but I know of a 17 year old young man who has lost most of his hair from a possible auto-immune condition:

  36. #36 SteveM
    November 26, 2008

    Not just gray either. Patrick Stewart was bald from about 19.
    He had (some) hair in I, Claudius and Lady Jane, so I’d say you were wrong.

    I think he had hair in Dune as well, but really, the amount of hair an actor has in any theatrical production is absolutely no indication of his real hair.

  37. #37 BobbyEarle
    November 27, 2008


    We started with Orac getting carded. We are now at Patrick Stewart’s baldness.

    Male Pattern Thread Derailment.

  38. #38 BobbyEarle
    November 27, 2008

    Maybe Jean Luc was really saying…

    “Make it grow!”


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