Likelihood of Success

Ron Coleman’s pretty good blog

The Big Lie

Posted by Ron Coleman on June 8, 2007

We card


I spend too much time in convenience stores buying drinks and snacks. But it gives me lots of opportunity to survey the two main activities that take place there.

The first is people with evidently — from the looks of them — limited disposal income buying lottery tickets, all too knowledgeably. Economists and other wags call lotteries a “tax on the stupid,” for good reason.

The second is the sale of cigarettes, at least half of which are sold to minors. I have never seen anyone asked for identification in one of these stores, which obviously make a large part of their money on illegal, open and notorious, cigarette sales to people who you can tell are underage from across the street. I’ve never seen anyone busted for selling cigarettes to kids, either. Yet these stores are festooned with “We Card” and similar warning signs.

The best one of all is the decal next to the cash register that tells you what your birthday has to be in order to buy cigs. Can you imagine someone not knowing whether he qualifies as 19 or not? The purpose of the decal, of course, is to coach kids as to how to lie to buy tobacco illegally.

Cynicism? Not a little. Does this breed a heightened disrespect, not to say contempt, for the law among a class that, by virtue of its choice to become a smoker, has already demonstrated an unhealthy disregard not only for convention but for common sense and an instinct for self-preservation? Hard not to say so.

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6 Responses to “The Big Lie”

  1. Yeah, but we do that with a lot of things. No one except extremely needy towns enforces the speed limit, and even police cruisers are typically exceeding it.

    If we’re not going to enforce laws, what’s the point? In fact, aren’t our rights being abridged when this happens?

  2. Sigivald said

    If the purpose of the decals is to teach kids how to lie, then blame the State.

    Everywhere I’ve seen such things, they’re there because the State mandates them.

    (The reason being not to coach the customer into lying correctly, but to remind the cashier about basic math.

    Someone that can’t reliably give me correct change benefits a lot from not having to subtract 15/16/18/19/21/whatever from today’s year to get the cutoff accurately, rather than off by a year.)

    Maybe it’s also just where you live. I don’t see lots of underage sales, and I do see people get carded. But around here there are actual enforcement agents, too.

  3. While I was in college, I spent a summer working at a “c-store”. I carded everyone. The 80 year olds liked it. The 25 year olds not so much. But I carded everyone, every time. Most of my co-workers thought I was over zealous..
    But the fines! Gods, the fines are obscene. They’re leveled at the cashier, they come out to several months of pay (for people who live check-to-check), and getting cited for selling to an underage can result in termination…
    Are they enforced? You bet– In CA, at least. The state will send underagers in to buy cigarettes/alcohol, with pinhole camera. This happens to every store at least once a year…
    As far as your crack about calendars goes, those were for the clerks. Let me tell you– when you’re working one job until midnight, and start the next job at 5am, knowing your own name can be tough. Remembering the date can be tougher…

  4. The problem is that the calendar decals are pointed in the direction of the buyers, not the clerks!

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