Responsible Retailing Forum and Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control Will Examine Staff Incentives as a Strategy to Reduce Underage Sales

October 26, 2014

The Responsible Retailing Forum (RRForum) has received an award from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism that will measure the impact of a “Spot the Mystery Shopper” campaign upon ID-checking by clerks and servers.

Mystery Shop programs —  which employ young, legal-age inspectors to provide feedback on actual staff conduct — are an effective tool for licensees to ensure that staff are asking for IDs. But to prevent underage sales, staff must also determine that the ID is authentic, belongs to that customer and shows, in fact, that the ID-holder is age 21 or older. Compliance checks are often failed, and fake IDs go undetected, because staff do not examine the ID carefully.

The Spot the Mystery Shopper (“{STMS”) protocol provides an incentive for staff to check IDs carefully. Licensees in Montgomery County will be told that they may be visited by an RRForum mystery shopper, and the names and ages of the Mystery Shoppers (e.g. Andy L, age 24, Susan G, age 22) will be provided on small cards to be kept at the POS system. If the clerk or server, in examining the ID, recognizes that the customer is an RRForum mystery shopper, that clerk or server will receive a $50 “thank you” for carefully checking IDs. RRForum researchers hypothesize that the STMS campaign will provide staff of alcohol beverage licensees with an additional incentive to check IDs carefully, and this will result in higher rates of ID-checking throughout Montgomery County.