January 4, 2012

86% Card Rate in Latest Alcohol Purchase Survey

A recent Alcohol Purchase Survey conducted by the Pittsfield Prevention Partnership (PPP) on December 22, 2011 suggests that Pittsfield liquor establishments are doing a good job of carding young-looking buyers, but could be more vigilant. 56 establishments were visited, and of those, all but eight establishments asked young looking Mystery Shoppers for identification, an 86% card rate.

An alcohol purchase survey is not a "sting".  It is a project that looks at retail availability of alcohol to minors. Youthful-looking adult buyers are used for the project.  The buyer goes into liquor stores to determine if they will be challenged for identification.  At no time are any laws broken.  The PPP buyers were for the most part between 21 and 23 years old.  One of the buyers was actually 29, but looked much younger, and was carded nearly every time.  All information from the surveys was forwarded to the police department and the local license board.  The individual stores and bars were also be notified of the results.

The purpose of the alcohol purchase surveys is to raise awareness in the community regarding the retail availability of alcohol to minors. It's important for young people to know that the adult community as a whole is concerned about underage drinking, and is actively seeking to prevent it.

Dan Zunitch, a certified TIPS (Training for Intervention ProcedureS) trainer, trained about 81 servers this spring with funds from the PPP.  He tells training participants that they should follow the National Restaurant Association guidelines, which recommend that servers card "anyone who doesn't have wrinkles." 

The young adult buyers were positive about their participation in the survey.  When the clerk or bartender asked for identification, the shopper handed them a green card, which says "You're a Life Saver" and explained the survey.  They also received a gift card for a large coffee at Dunkin' Donuts as a small reward for doing the right thing.  "Most of the clerks were quick about asking for ID.  It seems to be a routine part of the check-out process," said Kara Marcello, one of the PPP's summer Mystery Shoppers.  "Many of the clerks were pleasantly surprised to get the green card and Dunkin' Donuts gift card."