July 8, 2009

Do self-checkouts let minors buy booze?

Self-checkout lanes in U.S. grocery stores allow minors to buy alcohol without showing identification, critics say.

Minors use the lanes to skirt supervision from cashiers when illegally buying alcoholic beverages, the critics say, and calls for reforms have pitted California activists against grocers, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

The debate is playing out as the California Senate is set to consider a bill that would require grocers to route all alcohol sales through lanes with cashiers, who are supposed to check the IDs of buyers, the newspaper said.

Supermarket industry groups say their self-checkout technology has improved to the point where minors are no more likely to buy alcohol through self-checkouts than through full-service lanes, and the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control says it doesn't believe the lanes are a major problem, the Times reported.

But labor groups and Mothers Against Drunk Driving disagree, telling the newspaper self-checkout computers, programmed to freeze for alcohol purchases, often fail or are ignored by store employees.