Ask LH: Do I Need To Show ID To Buy Alcohol If The Seller Knows My Age?

Dear Lifehacker, The other day I attempted to buy wine from a bottle shop but forgot my ID. The cashier refused to serve me point-blank. The thing is, this person went to the same high school as me and they definitely know I’m over 18. In other words, she was just being a dick to me for no reason! Is this discrimination? Thanks, Mean Girl Hater

Bottle shop image from Shutterstock

Dear MGH,

Yeah, nah. As we’ve explained in a similar Ask LH post, Australian businesses have the right to refuse service for almost any reason. Provided it’s inside the law, the merchant can basically set any rule they like.

For it to be deemed discriminatory, the service refusal would need to relate to your race, sexual orientation, gender identity or a disability. Even then, proving that anti-discrimination laws were willfully broken can be quite difficult.

On top of this, you admit you didn’t have your ID on you. Selling alcohol to underage patrons is strictly prohibited in Australia. Breaking these laws can result in anything from an on-the-spot fine of $1100 to 12 months in prison.

If the liquor store is being managed responsibly, they will have a strict policy in place that requires all patrons who look under 25 to show their IDs — no exceptions. The fact that the cashier “knows” your age is irrelevant to the manager. Even if she wanted to help you out, the risk of losing her job would be too high.

While it’s possible — even probable — that the cashier was acting maliciously towards you, it’s still your fault for forgetting your ID. Next time, remember to bring proof-of-age and there shouldn’t be any problems.


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