According to the law of the United States, at 18, you can vote; you can have consensual sex and your partner won’t be accused of statutory rape; you can die for your country; and you can buy cigarettes, which will possibly help you die sooner than otherwise, but for one of your country’s strongest lobbies rather than for your country itself—but hey, dulce et decorum anyway.

But you can’t legally have a beer.

Here’s another interesting alcohol-related anomaly.

I went to the supermarket this evening and bought, among other things, a bottle of wine. The cashier set aside the wine and scanned and bagged everything else. Then she scanned and bagged the wine, after which, she picked up her intercom phone and called for a manager. “Sorry to keep you waiting, ma’am,” she said to me and, by extension, the people behind me, “but I’m not 21. I can’t ring up alcohol.”

A manager eventually arrived and pressed the key that rings up the entire sale.

So the under-21 cashier can handle the bottle of wine, she can scan it, she can put it in the shopping bag—but she can’t press the key that actually rings it up. In other words, she can’t technically sell it to me, though after someone else has facilitated the sale, she can accept my payment.

How silly is that?


7 Responses to Cheers!

  1. MarieMcC says:

    Ridiculous! What are the lawmakers thinking? Oh, sorry, dumb question!!!

  2. Alison says:

    There are some silly laws out there. But when I was about19 or 20, I worked in a liquor store in Pennsylvania. I was allowed to sell alcohol to customers, but I couldn’t buy it myself.

    Of course in Pennsylvania, you can’t buy wine or beer in the grocery store. Each state has its own rules. Now I live in Kentucky, where I can buy beer at the grocery store, but if I want wine or something stronger, I have to go to the liquor store or — get this — the pharmacy.

    Sometimes I do miss France. It was one-stop shopping there! But I will say that KY is cooler than PA about liquor sales. Then again, I don’t live in a dry county. I might hate it if I did.

  3. transall says:


    Un paradoxe américain de plus…

    Vu de ce côté ci de l’Atlantique, c’est vrai que cela paraît ridicule mais ce qui l’est un peu plus à nos yeux c’est sûrement le fait qu’il y ait autant de façon de se comporter que d’états. Nous imaginerions assez mal ici pouvoir, par exemple, acheter de l’alcool dans les Landes et pas dans les Pyrénées Atlantiques!!!

    Cela étant, c’est un gage de plein emploi car s’il faut deux personnes pour vendre une bouteille de vin… les statistiques sur le chômage vont s’en trouver améliorées d’un coup.



  4. Elisabeth says:

    I constantly lament those laws that have to be remnants of the prohibition era. It leads to absurdities such as kids who, on their 21st birthday, feel pressured to “do their 21 shots” and end up having their stomach pumped at the local hospital (and this is not mentioning those who actually go into a coma and die.)

    I also find it absurd that, as a parent, I cannot even go in a restaurant with my 20-year old daughter and let her have a glass of wine or a beer. I actually think that it is even illigal for me to let her have a glass of wine or a beer in my own house (and for that, I have violated the law a handful of times.)

    Whatever is prohibited become immediately more desirable.

  5. passante says:

    I’m hazy on the current licensing laws in England. I think the legal drinking age is 18, but I seem to remember going into pubs at 17. How I got away with it I can’t think because I looked about 14; and even though I was probably drinking orange juice or some other soft drink, my presence alone in a bar was illegal.

    Apparently when I was about 7, my parents and a couple of friends decided we should all go to lunch in a very nice restaurant outside Windsor. When they got there with their reservation for five, they were politely refused—because there was a bar in the restaurant and I was underage. I may be wrong, but I think that had the restaurant not had a bar, they could have been served a glass of wine with me sitting at the table!

  6. DR. A says:

    Love the site – must check more often. Especially like seeing posts about Lille, which I haven’t visited yet but I hope to soon (MLL take note – find a nice cafe for a good cup of coffee, what am I saying all French coffee is good). But to get back to the point – I was in the states a few years ago, and to set the scene: I am 50 something and bearded : I was asked to produce ID before being allowed into some bars. Apparently it’s the law!! Did they think I was a 16 year old in heavy disguise??

  7. Clarissa P. says:

    Today I got cited for selling an underaged investigator a 6-pack. On top of that, I just learned that you have to be 20 and a day to even ring it up. Im only 19. I agree, its my fault that I should have carded the fellow, who was the same age as me, but shouldnt my work be in trouble for allowing me to do it, as part of my job?

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