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Update: "Papers please." Has anyone else noticed or experienced this?

On Thursday, a friend of mine came down to visit from Vermont. At the end of the trip, he said he wanted to stop at Whole Foods to pick up some cheap wine. In Vermont, he says, there is no such thing as cheap wine. Whole Foods on River Street in Cambridge is now competing with the Trader Joe's next door, both offering a house brand of California wine for $2.99 a bottle. It is decent wine, and he ends up putting a couple of cases in his basket. Then he gets to the checkout.

Now mind you, my friend is 66 years old, and no offense to anyone, but he looks it (and he knows it). His description of himself is that he's "balding with grey hair and jowls," which is an accurate description. But still the kid at the checkout stand carded him for the alcohol purchase. And not only that, because my friend had a Vermont license, the checker needed to call a supervisor for approval!

My friend thinks this is crazy. Of course I do too, but I thought it was just isolated to Whole Foods, which is uptight like that.

But so last night I was at a bar down the hill from my place in Union Square and the bouncer dude out front cards me. He says that even though he could tell I was over 21, he had to card me by law, or he could get in trouble. Its a profiling thing. So I tell him the story about what happened to my friend at Whole Foods, and this bouncer dude, who is also an older guy too - I'd put him at over sixty also - says the same thing happened to him buying smokes at Market Basket, the cheapest grocery store in Somerville.

But in his case, he didn't have his ID on him. At that particular store, there is a little office behind plexiglass where they sell cigarettes and lottery tickets. Only the bouncer dude didn't have his ID with him. And he's fumbling around in his pockets looking for it, and the line is growing behind him with people waiting, and he said he just snapped. He tells the kid to come up close and says, "Look at me kid. Do you think I'm not 21? If you don't hand over those cigarettes right now I'm going to reach in their and grab you and pull you through this little hole."

Now, the bouncer dude was laughing when he said this. But he also said he felt like a jerk for losing it like that. But he was livid at the ridiculousness of the situation, and flustered with all the people piling up behind him. And the way he's telling the story has me cracking up. But I look at him, and he is a big, imposing guy. You wouldn't want this guy mad at you.

So I ask him, what did the kid do?

"He gave me the cigarettes," he says and we both start laughing.

(The bouncer also said that every time he goes into the store and sees that kid now he apologizes profusely to him).

But afterwards, I got to thinking about this.

What's going on? I'm used to getting carded where ever I go to buy alcohol, but I always took that as a compliment - an affirmation of my vibrant, youthful features. But who am I kidding?

Is this just how it goes in the waning days of the empire? What does it mean? Will they soon be checking ID for other things too, and this is just the long, slow acclimation process? (Oh right Sudafed now requires ID to buy. Spray paint, too, in some places where "graffiti" is a problem. Anything else?) Has something similar happened to you?

- - - - - - -

Update: I just came back from a little trip to the wine store down in the Square - not the one that is closer, where I usually go - the one owned by the Indian entrepreneurs. This time I walked across the square - popped into a few bars just to check the scene for a few minutes, then move on. A leisurely Saturday night walk.

I picked up a little four pack of Allagash White, brewed up in Portland Maine. I've been enjoying the Belgian White beers of late. But a four pack will set you back $10, so I've been modest in my enjoyment.

The cashier was an elderly woman, well into her 70's I'd say. She was caucasian, but foreign - I wasn't sure where from. The accent was not a familiar one to me.* I asked her if she was going to card me, and she said, "I have to." I asked, "is it the law?" She kind of scoffed like it was a nonsensical question. "Is it a law? They come after you for money. I had a kid come in, buy some alcohol and then the police come in saying I didn't card him. It happened to me," she said. "Many times."

"They want money," was her objective observation.

Shake down. Pure and simple.

1) Create a completely un-followable law, if for no other reason that it makes you feel like an idiot for enforcing it. "Hey granny, you're older than me, but can I see your ID?"

2) Fine people and collect when they inevitably break the law.

3) Repeat

4) Expand

* It turns out she's Portugese. There were many Portugese in this area at one time, and I imagine that she started the place with her husband a long time ago. But this neighborhood is in transition. A lot of the new, second wave immigrants are replacing the old Brazilians & Portugese. Now we have Indians and Chinese, and a lot of "Latinos." I don't know exactly what that means, but there are lots of people here from other central + south American countries that are not Mexico.

It really is like two separate workforces. Walk into any restaurant and you'll find the kitchen staff is composed nearly entirely of, as one friend calls them, "Amigos."

But I digress.

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i used to buy my mom cigarettes

when I was a little kid here in the states. See, we have been moving towards a police state for decades.

I work at one of these stores here in CA

Trust me, these employers do not adopt this policy voluntarily, but it is forced upon them indirectly.

If a retailer is caught (by a third party agency) not asking for ID for anyone under 35 and they are reported to enforcement (sometimes waiting outside), that store's alcohol section is roped off and plastic wrapped and they are not allowed to sell alcohol for at least one day. Both the employer and the involved employee are fined and the employee will face some type of punishment up to being fired. This can cost a business a HUGE portion of their revenue, so you can see why they have to adopt these policies.

To my knowledge, these third party agencies get a good payday (from the fines the government collects) when they catch someone in violation. That's how they stay in "business."


I wonder if the following has played a part in this

In our area in past years the police set up stings where they send minors into businesses to purchase alcohol and tobacco, which in turn results in costly fines to the businesses when clerks make a judgement call on who they think are old enough. And in some areas
they risk losing their liqueur licenses. So that makes me wonder if businesses are telling their employees to ID everyone no matter what age they appear ??
Of course this is brought on by the police breaking the law to enforce the law which is wrong on all accounts.

If a person is obviously of age and gets carded..ask for management
and ask them why they are being carded when it is pretty obvious they are of age.

We had a gas station that put in a card swipe thing for purchasing
alcohol and tobacco which to me was too intrusive. I had read on-line where bars where using these to collect data and sell it. So I questioned the owner of the store's daughter about the data gathering of the machine and weather it was being sold to which I really never got an answer out of her, the machines disappeared shortly after that. :o)

It's an Orwellian obsession with obedience

It's in schools, it's in the corporate world. All that matters is compliance. The intent is that under 21 cannot drink alcohol. But the law is that people must be carded regardless of age. That has nothing to do with age 21, nothing to do with drinking. It's about "compliance", the ability to put a metric or a pass/fail test on something measurable, no matter that it is orthogonal to the actual intended outcome. It's often coupled with extraordinary punishment for non-compliance, grossly disproportionate to the 'crime'--witness the severe penalty merely for having overseas bank accounts even if you owe no additional tax. G-dd-m college professors, MBAs and bureaucrats have foisted this evil on society.

Take back the GOP and Restore America Now.

It’s happening more and more

Went to lunch the other day with a friend and we were carded. We’re both 69 years old. When I asked the Manager why, he said, “we have to card everyone now because the younger patrons were complaining that they were being discriminated against, so now we card everyone”.

The Right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be Infringed!
"You cannot invade mainland America. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass." Isoroku Yamamoto, Japanese Admiral

Noticed it a lot in certain states.

MA, CA, and NY seem to check ID for just about everything. I'd have to show mine in MA about 95% of the time, now that I'm in NH I've only had to show it twice so far.

I've also noticed more and more stores asking for increasingly personal info, especially electronics outlets. LOL and I thought Radioshack was bad.

A signature used to be here!

Michael Nystrom's picture

Yes, I've noticed that at Microcenter

You're just there to buy a set of speakers and their first question at the cash register is, "What is your phone number."

Excuse me? What does my phone number have to do with anything?

He's the man.

I think...

they ask for personal info for annoying targeted advertising purposes. Who knows, though.

I don't play, I commission the league.

tell them you don't have one

That is what I have done in the past. Then they make one up for you. They put in something like 999-9999 or their store number or whatever.

I was asked to provide

I was asked to provide personal information at a Best Buy when I was paying cash for a purchase years ago. I started yelling at the top of my lungs something like, "why the hell do you need that" or "that's none of your business" (I may have reacted a little too strongly), so an embarrassed manager rushed to the cashier and just entered some sort of "decline to state" info into their register. So every time I shop there now, if anyone asks for additional information, I just say "decline to state"...and I still only use cash to defeat their desire to track my purchases.

I use cash too

and have to say no I don't want one of your member/discount cards every time.

I've been carded

every time I but beer or cigars. I'm 60+ now. Once they know me they no longer card until there's a new guy/gal. If you want to know what is going on and why they do this read this short explanation:

Michael Nystrom's picture

Thanks for the link

I will check it out in depth later.

He's the man.

The whole asking for ID thing

The whole asking for ID thing is just a way of getting us used to obliging to their orders..My husband and I are both in our 40's..We went into a gas station to buy some wine coolers..and they asked for my ID..ok stupid..but then because my husband was with me while I was purchasing it, they asked for his ID also...this is just the dumb getting dumber...no common sense, AT ALL

"and the truth shall make you free"
John 8:32

out here in AZ

if you are one of the lucky people to get randomly selected when buying alcohol from a store, they not only scan your ID, but also whip out a little book from the state and put all your info in it (address, Drivers License #, and name) and make you sign it....

Michael Nystrom's picture


That is insane!

How do they do the random selection? At the cash register?

Do they do it for simple beer + wine purchases or just liquor? Do they do this at all stores, or just liquor stores? In Washington State, you used to be able to buy beer at 7-11 and the gas station, and the grocerty store. Here in MA, I still don't get it. You can't buy it at most convenience stores, but at some grocery stores (but not others). Mainly, you buy alcohol from dedicated alcohol stores.

He's the man.


Beer, wine or liquor. has happened to me at supermarkets (several different chains) and once at a liquor store. Not sure how/why you are selected but I think it may be because I have an ID that is printed vertically instead of horizontally. They always tell me I should go get a new ID, but I don't see the point since it is good until 2050...

Dunno if anybody else out here can confirm, but I always see a plethora of signatures in the book, so I'm not the only one!

one of us (over 60)

got carded for buying a NA beverage, because it was in the alcohol section (we sometimes use NA wine for cooking, and one of us used to have a drinking problem decades ago, so we don't have alcohol in the home)--

a non-alcoholic beverage, and the purchaser was over 60--


This was two years ago--

it's hard to be awake; it's easier to dream--

Michael Nystrom's picture

I know that this video was a joke

But it was a serious kind of joke. And while in some respects it seems far fetched, in other respects it does not:

Ordering a Pizza in the Future

He's the man.

It seems more plausible now

with Obamacare, and data mining everywhere.


yes, the purchasing process has become much more invasive--

it's hard to be awake; it's easier to dream--

I got one one for ya (similar experience that Velveeta had)

A couple months ago I was buying a bottle at a liquor store on an indian reservation. The lady carded me, and she took the ID out of my hand, and scanned it into a device with a small screen that had my info on it, and confirmed the ID was in fact genuine. This device had a networking cable plugged into it as well. It was a bit disturbing. When I asked about it, she scowled at me, and told me that it is for making sure the ID is not a fake. But where is my information going? Who's database is the record of this transaction sitting in, and why do they need to scan my ID into their computer?

All I could think of is "what a bunch of new world order crap!" Last time I will ever go there.

Michael Nystrom's picture


I have yet to encounter this one, either. Sounds like the infrastructure is in place for some kind of rationing system in the future, should they need it.

- chills -

I was just thinking that there is a little liquor store down the street from my house, run by Indians (not the Native American kind, but the kind from India). It is a mom & pop place. They never card me, because they know me. I can't remember if they carded me the first time I went in there or not.

And I have a friend who just started college, which is near a little town in New York state. She's 18. We were talking about getting carded, and fake IDs to get around it and she said you don't have to bother with that - that all the bars in town serve the college kids. They don't even bother checking for ID.

So that is the whole other end of the spectrum. It is a depressed little town, so I guess they'll take the risk to get the money.

He's the man.

Of course, once the bar gets

Of course, once the bar gets caught, the owners will be thrown in jail and they'll be fined tens of thousands of dollars.

That's what the payoff takes care of.

Regulations are about institutionalizing bribery.

Free includes debt-free!

I got the royal treatment for

I got the royal treatment for buying cold medicine for a friend (I think it was Sudafed). They scanned my driver's license! I couldn't believe it... Stuff like this only contributes to black-market trade. Needless to say, no more buying medicine for friends!

Michael Nystrom's picture

What is so bad about Sudafed?

Or should I say, so good about it? What does it do, get people high?

My wife, who grew up in Taiwan, said that when she was a kid her father would send her down to the store to buy a bottle of whiskey. No problem. I guess it used to be like that here.

What has happened is that the idea of responsibility has shifted from the family to the state.

He's the man.


I think people buy large quantities of it to make crystal meth or crank. One time I bought 1 box I had to sign for it on a log sheet in a 3 ring binder at Rite Aid, lol.


In CA, people will drive around in vans picking up homeless people (with a Cali ID) and pay them to grab all the Sudafed they're "allowed" to buy.

A signature used to be here!

Correct. I only know about

Correct. I only know about this now because I watched "Breaking Bad"...which, I must say, is a very well-written but very strange show.