Teen Drinking is a Dangerous Business

Each year, approximately 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking; this includes about 1,900 deaths from motor vehicle crashes, 1,600 as a result of homicides, 300 from suicide, as well as hundreds from other injuries such as falls, burns, and drowning (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism). These numbers are alarming, and service professionals should be diligent about ensuring that they are checking IDs and using their alcohol awareness training to avoid contributing to the problem.

Some adults are comfortable allowing their teenagers to drink at home, the thought process often being, “if my teenager is going to imbibe, I’d rather they do it at home under my supervision, and I don’t have to worry about them getting behind the wheel of a car or harming themselves”. Teenage drinking is dangerous, regardless of where it occurs, or who is supervising. Teens can develop dangerous drinking habits, and supervising adults should be diligent about promoting alcohol awareness and age appropriate life choices. Additionally, teens are more likely to binge drink than their adult counterparts. According to the National Society on Drug Use and Health, 72% of 18- to 20-year-old drinkers reported heavy drinking in the past month. (NSDUH).

Also alarming, a new study led by researchers at Indiana University, and summarized by CNN, shows teen problem drinking is not a phase, and could be a predictor of alcohol dependence in adulthood.

It only takes a minute to check an ID and prevent a minor from entering a bar and buying a drink, but what about off-site sales and service? Gas stations, grocery stores and liquor stores are all places that teens turn to in order to purchase liquor, and staffers at those establishments should take steps to ensure they are doing all they can to prevent illegal sales.

Service professionals must be aware of the facts and dangers of teenage drinking. These service professionals are required to obtain alcohol awareness training, and will learn valuable real-world information for dealing with these types of situations in their TAM® training. Off-site premises workers don’t necessarily know that if they sell beer and liquor to a legal adult, the adult won’t provide that liquor to teenagers, but using your best judgment and following store procedures will help to keep things safe and legal.

The national campaign We Don’t Serve Teens makes excellent and common-sense suggestions for helping to curb teenage drinking from off-site sales, “Create and maintain sales and service policies that every staffer should follow.” (We Don’t Serve Teens). Everyone involved in sales should be aware of store policies regarding acceptable forms of ID, when and how to refuse a sale, etc.

Retailers and off-site sales professionals should be diligent about checking IDs as well to make sure teenagers are not trying to purchase liquor with fake or borrowed identification. To learn more about recognizing a fake or borrowed ID, refer to our blog post, “Are Minors Using Fake IDs and Sneaking Past You?” Most establishments also have a guidebook, like the I.D. Checking Guide, for validating various forms of identification. Ask your manager if you have a guide like this in your establishment and refer to it if needed. The I.D. Checking Guide can be purchased from TAM® here.

Taking steps to stop teen drinking is everyone’s job. Parents, teens, workers, communities and others all have to work to make a difference. For more ways to help curb teens’ access to alcohol, refer to We Don’t Serve Teens’ suggestions.

What are some tricks that you’ve seen used by fake ID holders? How else do you think service workers can help curb teen drinking?


© 2011 National Hospitality Institute®, TAM® of Nevada

ID Scanners – Friend or Foe?

ID  scanners have their benefits. They can be helpful in determining whether an ID is the real deal. Scanners can also quickly do the math for determining the age of the person represented by the ID. In these ways, ID scanners are your friends.

However, ID scanners can also be your foe if you rely solely on the scanner. If you are a manager, keep in mind that those who are new or inexperienced at checking IDs will tend to rely on technology. Take caution if you notice that your staff is making the decision to let people in, be served, or buy based on what the scanner says, without using diligent inquiries. A diligent inquiry is a dedicated effort to establish beyond doubt that the potential customer is of legal age to purchase, possess or consume alcoholic beverages.  

By skipping this process and putting all your trust in the scanner, you put yourself and your establishment at risk. Only a human being can do the work of a diligent inquiry.

Here is a scenario that describes why the scanner alone cannot do the work of checking IDs.

You are on duty at the hottest dance club on the strip. It is one busy night with a line a mile long. You scan a drivers license for a young man and get the go ahead to let the person into your establishment. The guy you let in ends up drinking too much and passes out in the bathroom. An ambulance is called and when the medics arrive, they find another ID in his wallet. Guess what? You let a minor into the club. He gave you a valid ID that he borrowed from his brother. The club you work for gets hit with a fine and you might lose your job!

You cannot automate the ID checking process by simply running IDs through a scanner. If you use scanners at your establishment, we recommend that you use them in conjunction with diligent inquiries. You need to confirm that the person represented by the ID is in fact the person standing in front of you. The only way you can avoid this type of scenario is through a diligent inquiry.

If you are a manager, make sure that your staff, especially those who are new or inexperienced, know your house policies for checking IDs and how to use the diligent inquiry technique.

TAM Card Holders, what diligent inquiry strategies did you learn in training and what methods have you successfully used when checking IDs? What are your experiences regarding the use of ID scanners?

© 2010 National Hospitality Institute®, TAM® of Nevada

Big Holiday Parties Are Upon Us!

Everyone is getting revved up for the holiday season and big holiday parties! What does that mean to you as a server, seller, security officer, operator or establishment owner?  You need to be prepared.

  1. Servers, sellers , managers and owners – Make sure your alcohol education card (TAM Card®) is current and in your possession. If your TAM Card® has expired, make sure you retake the training and get your new card before the busiest part of the holiday season is here.
  2. Servers — Be on your toes and observe those in your establishment. Watch how much you are serving and how often. Do the math and keep track of estimated Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) levels. Be sure that your guests are getting enough food and water while they are enjoying their alcoholic beverages. If one of the guests in the group you are serving becomes intoxicated, make sure that they have a safe ride home. Designated driver services and taxis can help get people home safely and without risk to themselves or others.
  3. Sellers — When you have customers coming into your retail store to purchase alcohol, make sure that they are not already intoxicated when you sell to them. Also, inform your employees to beware of potential third party sales and keep an eye out for any minors that are hanging out in your parking lot and approaching patrons about buying them liquor.
  4. Security Officers — Big party nights equal higher energy levels, increased levels of excitement and overindulgence. Be visible and interact with your establishment’s guests to defuse potential issues. Be extra diligent when checking IDs to ensure that you keep the underage out of your 21 and over establishment!
  5. Operators and Owners — Safeguard your establishments by letting your staff know your expectations for properly handling certain situations, like when they need to cut people off and what to do with minors who are trying to enter your establishment. With extra law enforcement out and about over the holidays, you want to make sure that all your servers, sellers and security staff have their alcohol education cards (TAM Cards®) on them at all times.

Guests are also responsible for keeping themselves in check. However, we all know that alcohol lowers inhibitions and affects good judgment, which means there are times when you need to step in and take control of certain situations.

Remember, hospitality is all about creating a fun experience and maintaining a safe environment for your guests and patrons. To achieve these goals, you may have to cut someone off or refuse to serve or sell to a guest because their behavior is negatively affecting the experience for others.

We would love to hear from you! What recommendations do you have for keeping the holidays fun and safe for your guests this season?

© 2010 National Hospitality Institute®, TAM® of Nevada

Are Minors Using Fake IDs and Sneaking Past You?

Teens and minors can be sneaky, especially when they want to get into the hottest Vegas clubs with their friends. If you’ve been in the industry for a while, then you have probably caught your fair share of minors trying to get past you with a fake ID. Here is a checklist for newbies and those who haven’t had to check IDs in a while:

  • Has the license expired?
  • Does the person in front of you look like the person pictured on the ID?
  • Does the person’s eye color match the eye color stated on the ID?
  • Is the license in a vertical format?
  • Does the birth date text and the expiration text match the text on the rest of the ID?


When an ID does not pass your first inspection, you can question the ID holder and ask more details, such as his/her height, weight, address, birth date, birth year, etc.

Still in doubt? Then, ask for other forms of ID, like bank or credit cards, a work ID or another ID that has the person’s name. You want to ask for these other forms of ID to make sure that it is the same person. If someone is trying to use a fake ID, it is unlikely that they will have another form of ID. 

You can also get a supervisor or manager to check the ID. Most establishments have a guidebook, like the I.D. Checking Guide, for validating various forms of identification. Ask your manager if you have a guide like this in your establishment and refer to it if needed.

It’s better to be safe than sorry. If you aren’t comfortable with the ID, then apologize to the guest and let them know that you cannot validate their identification. Welcome them to return at another time with other identification to confirm their identity and age.

What are some tricks that you’ve seen used by fake ID holders? What would have been helpful to know when you first started checking IDs?

© 2010 National Hospitality Institute®, TAM® of Nevada