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April is Alcohol Awareness Month. Created by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in 1987, the focus of this campaign is to bring awareness to alcoholism and recovery. The theme for this year is “Changing Attitudes:  It’s not a ‘rite of passage.’” This is particularly relevant for alcohol retailers such as convenience stores. As an alcohol seller, you have a social responsibility to ensure everyone on your staff follows alcohol sales laws to the letter. Alcohol Awareness Month is the perfect time to conduct responsible alcohol sales training. Make sure you’re covering the following topics.

Know the consequences. It’s estimated that nearly 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes in the U.S. ever year. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, excessive alcohol consumption is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in the United States. If you sell alcohol to someone without following the law, you can be held personally liable for injuries, property damages, or deaths that happen as a result of the alcohol you illegally sold.

Do not sell to anyone under 21. Teens and young adults are at an even greater risk of being injured or killed in an alcohol-related accident. It is a federal crime to sell alcohol to anyone who is under the age of 21. A good guideline many stores use is to card anyone who looks under 35. Since this is ultimately a judgment call, an even more stringent guideline is to simply card everyone, regardless of how old they look. Every employee tasked with selling alcohol must be thoroughly trained on how to check IDs and how to spot fake ones.

Do not sell to anyone who you suspect may be buying for a minor. Underage would-be drinkers can be sneaky. They may loiter outside the store and ask adults to purchase alcohol for them. Keep an eye out for suspicious behavior outside the store or near the cooler. If you have any reason to suspect a person is buying alcohol for a minor, refuse the sale.

Do not sell to anyone who is intoxicated. It’s not enough to just make sure customers are of legal age to buy alcohol, you must also make sure they’re not already intoxicated. This can also be a judgment call on the part of the cashier, so training is key. Make sure your employees know the most common signs of intoxication.

When in doubt, refuse the sale. In a business where customer service is paramount, it may feel wrong to turn down a sale of any kind. But when it comes to responsible alcohol sales, you can’t afford to follow the “customer is always right” adage. The cost of non-compliance is just too high. Train your employees to ask for help and to refuse an alcohol sale if they have any reason to believe the sale may be unlawful.

Responsible Alcohol Sales Training

Alcohol Awareness Month comes once a year, but selling alcohol responsibly is a year-round endeavor. Just like all your compliance training, make sure new employees are fully trained as part of their orientation, and schedule refresher training regularly.