So, Friday night Milly and I were having some people over. We went to Asda to get wine and nibbles and a few other essentials we would need during the week - as we frequently do, Asda being the biggest and cheapest supermarket nearby.
We got to the checkout and divided our stuff from the trolley, splitting the stuff for that night so we'd each pay for a bottle of wine and a couple of bags of crisps. Milly's stuff was put through first and I went to help her pack and fit it in the trolley, which we had already loaded up with our purchases from other shops.
As the cashier scanned the bottle of wine she turned and asked us both for ID. It's pretty much a nationwide policy to check for ID if the person looks under 21, even though the legal age for buying alcohol is 18. I can't really decide if I'm flattered or annoyed at being asked for ID now that I'm 26, but I got out my driving licence anyway and showed her. Milly had forgot hers and she rifled through her purse trying to find it to no avail.
"Don't worry," I said, "I'll pay for the wine."
"I can't sell it to you," said the cashier. "She hasn't got ID."
"But I have," I replied. "You've just seen it. I'll pay for the wine."
"No I can't let you do that. I need to see ID from both of you. It's the law."
"It's NOT the law!" I raised my voice a bit, uncertain if I was actually correct.
She called her supervisor over.
"We have to see ID from both of you," said the supervisor. "You can't buy wine for her if she's not got ID."
"Fine," I said, "but I can still get the bottle of wine I was planning on getting, right? The one that's with all my shopping here?"
"No, I can't let you buy that either."
"Why not? I'm 26 years old and you've seen my ID, why won't you let me buy a bottle of wine?"
"Because you're together and she hasn't got ID."
"Right, so if I load all this into the car and come back in on my own, with my ID, then I can buy some wine."
"No, because you've just been refused."
Steaming and wineless we left Asda. I spent a while Googling when I got home because I could not believe they had refused me just because I was with Milly (who is, incidentally, 21 and more than old enough to buy alcohol even if she did forget her ID). What if I'd been with a child who obviously wouldn't have been old enough? Would they have refused to serve me if I'd come in with a little kid? Then again, children are allowed to drink in their own home at some ridiculous age over here. I think it's 5 or something. So I could well be buying alcohol with the intention of giving some of it to a child. Plus, my understanding is that if I were to ever have a moment of stupidity and buy alcohol for some of those kids who hang around outside off-licences and try to get adults to buy beer for them, I'd be the one who was liable for prosecution, not the shopkeeper who sold it to me.
And how long would I have had to wait before I could go in and buy alcohol there having been refused? If I'd driven the car away and come back 2 hours later would that have made a difference? They can't possibly refuse to serve me alcohol in Asda for the rest of my life because I once tried to buy a bottle of wine with a 21-year-old who didn't have any ID. Plus, there are so many checkouts at Asda I doubt they would have even realised if I'd come back in and gone to a different one.
Google didn't tell me anything conclusive, but nowhere did I find proof that an adult should be refused because they are with someone who may be underage. I know we have a dangerous culture of youth binge-drinking in this country and I think it's great that supermarkets are joining the fight to somehow prevent it, but there comes a point where it really has gone too far.