As a result of Mothers Against Drunk Driving’s (MADD) unrelenting crusade against alcohol, a bill (Assembly Bill 183) that would ban the sale of alcohol at self-checkout lanes is now on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. Despite MADD’s noble intentions, there is scant evidence to support their cause.
Thursday, 29 September 2011 14:09
MADD cites only one survey and one scientific study to support their claim that minors abuse self-checkout lanes in order to buy alcohol. A 2009 survey on the frequency of ID checks conducted by the Community Economic Development Clinic at UCLA used participants as old as 41. Therefore, any alcohol purchasers whose IDs remained in their pockets may not be due to the incompetency of the clerks, but the number of wrinkles on customers’ faces. And the SDSU study from 2010 cited — though it is more comprehensive — doesn’t even compare the effectiveness of self-checkout lanes to regular checkout lanes. However, it does conclude IDs were not checked 10 percent of the time. On the flip side, one study in 1995 actually showed that regular checkout lanes had a 44 percent failure rate to check IDs.
Yes, that’s right: self-checkout lanes may be even more effective at stopping alcohol sales to minors, yet Sacramento has pushed a bill that would ban it. According to the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 80 percent of minors get their alcohol from providers over the age of 21.
The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control states there is no evidence to support MADD’s claim. Between 2008 and 2011, of the 2,300 accusations of selling alcohol to minors, 90 percent were attributable to small liquor stores, and only four percent to large supermarkets with self-checkout lanes.
Part of the reason it has gotten to Brown’s desk is the United Food and Commercial Workers’ (UFCW) claim that self-checkout lanes are killing jobs. This is no different than the Luddites in 19th-century England who destroyed machines because they ‘killed’ jobs. Anti-technological fervor is no reason to sign a bill into law.
What’s worse is that grocery chains that rely on self-checkout lanes like Fresh & Easy will now have to hire cashiers just for alcohol purchases. This bill would increase employment costs causing the store to raise prices on their products. Students and the unemployed will particularly suffer from these prices while only a few new employees will reap any gain from this bill.
Undoubtedly, Governor Brown should veto this bill if he wants to stand on the side of reason and innovation. Bowing down to special interest groups like MADD and UFCW will not stop alcohol sales to minors and will have the unintended consequence of stifling the spread of technological improvements like self-checkout lanes.
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