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Better budget more time for your booze buys

By Josh Richman
Monday, October 10th, 2011 at 12:41 pm in Assembly, Fiona Ma, Jerry Brown.

California will no longer allow alcohol sales through self-checkouts, under a bill signed into law late Sunday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

self-checkoutAB 183 by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, requires that alcohol sales be a face-to-face transaction in which a clerk checks a person’s ID and can check for sobriety.

Ma cited a a 2009 UCLA study that showed 20 percent of young adults were able to override a self-service checkout by scanning other items and/or swiping credit cards. She also noted underage drinkers consumed nearly 14 percent of all alcohol sold in California in 2007, totaling $3.6 billion in sales. The bill was sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the California Police Chiefs Association and the California Professional Firefighters.

“AB 183 garnered wide-spread support from law enforcement because it closes a door for minors wanting to obtain alcohol,” Ma said Monday. “The Governor’s signature will ensure that alcohol is treated no differently than tobacco and spray paint.”

The bill’s opponents – including the California Grocers Association and the Fresh & Easy grocery chain, which relies on self-checkouts as a key part of its business model – said self-checkout stations already have lock-out mechanisms preventing customers from buying alcohol without a clerk verifying the buyer’s age and finalizing the purchase, making this bill a fix in search of a problem. They said it’s just a sop to labor unions that don’t want people replaced by bar-code scanners.

“We are disappointed that politics has prevailed over solid judgment,” Fresh & Easy spokesman Brendan Wonnacott said Monday. “Despite the intentions of the UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers) and its allies in the Legislature, this bill will not stop Fresh & Easy’s efforts to bring fresh, wholesome and affordable food to more Californians. We are continuing our expansion and look forward to creating more jobs in neighborhoods throughout the state.”

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  • RR, Senile Columnist

    Savvy teen drinkers won’t let this law interfere with their pleasure. Then again, the Guv wants the votes of grocery clerks, not teen drinkers.

  • John W

    It’s true that this won’t stop determined teens from getting their hands on booze. But we don’t need to make it easier for them. I would no more allow self-checkout for buying booze than I would for buying firearms or ammo at Billy Bob’s Guns, Bait and Lingerie Mart.

  • Truthclubber

    What a dumb analogy.

    I buy all kinds of ammo with no one looking into my face (it’s called “the Internets”) and I don’t have to get my ID checked online either (a valid credit card number is all I need, regardless of my age).

    This is purely aimed at trying to prevent us from replacing semi-literate, union checkout clerks (who dropped out of high school because…it was boring!) with machines that are faster and only have to take a break when they break…

  • John W

    Re: #3

    I honestly didn’t know you could buy ammo online. Yikes! While it’s true the legislation was pushed by labor, that doesn’t invalidate the concerns about under-age people buying booze using self-checkout.