I’ve always hated but tolerated this policy, like every other legal drinker unfortunate enough to have been born in the late 80’s to early 90’s. Mainly because even as I reached the big eighteen, the milestone seemed very much tainted by the thought of having to carry a passport around with me until I achieved some dark circles around my eyes or began to look like someone who could be given a key (Key?... 21?... No?).
Anyway, this week I experienced the absolute biggest, most ridiculous application of the Challenge 21 policy (If I could be bothered to list more adjectives that are synonyms of the word ‘Ridiculous’ I would, but trust me you would practically be reading a dissertation of bitterness). So, on a bored Wednesday afternoon I was sat in a beer garden with two friends trying to pass the not-quite-there-Spring time away. Note, that not one of us had an alcoholic beverage in hand (Designated driver, practically straight edge and fed up don’t exactly signal a ‘PARTY!’ situation). It got a little chilly outside so we decided to venture indoors with every intention of ordering more drinks. I could SENSE the ‘You don’t belong here’ even before the manageress’ shadow fell over us. First she asked if we were ordering food and when she realised we wouldn’t be she proceeded to ID us. In a local pub, at 2 o clock in the afternoon, drinking Diet Pepsi, where all three of us were over 18 but only two had the ID to prove it, we were asked to leave.
With this snobby establishment (*cough* Ember Inns *cough*), I can’t decide whether it was just a stupidly strict Challenge 21 policy or abject snobbery. Well actually I’ve got a pretty good idea. It was basically abusing the policy to maintain some sort of fantasy middle class standard the pub tries to portray. Anyway, before this turns into the hate mail I should probably send to their owners, I’ll get back on to Challenge 21 as a whole.
The real problem with the policy is that it gives vendors the ability to change and twist the rules in any way they like because all they have to feed you with in return is ‘But I could lose my job.’ I despise this ignorant assumption anyway. Why is it, that when we dare to contest the acquisition of these rules we get the policy explained to us as though we are three year olds that have just questioned why the sky is blue? I am well aware of what Challenge 21 means. My job implements the policy, but fortunately for 20 year old gamer nerds, I have enough common sense to acknowledge when a customer is clearly older than 17 instead of protesting with a condescending poster about how ‘We have to ask’, accompanied by a sad face. A note to the creators of the rule; adding, ‘If you’re fortunate enough to look under 21...’ blah bloody blah, to the blurb on a poster, doesn’t make the process of being turned away at ASDA for an 18 DVD any more pleasant.
That’s the thing with Challenge 21. They stick a poster up behind a counter and suddenly all common sense goes out the window. The excuse we were given at our recent turning away party was ‘Oh well I’m fifty so to me you only look about 12.’ I will ignore how unbelievably patronising this was (No scratch that I won’t, I should have bloody told her that in my 20 year old eyes she looked 60), but this really was absurd. Surely if you don’t find your tired old eyes capable of determining the age of a customer you shouldn’t put yourself in such a position? (As a side note, said manager was demonstrating a pitiful sore throat which I’m sure she must pull out any time a customer complains, just to invoke sympathy. Well I’m sorry Tiny Tim but you ain’t getting any from me.)
So what did I learn from this? Well first of all never to go in there ever again. Secondly, Challenge 21, although it has its uses, gives pubs and bars too much of an opportunity to abuse its policies for their own benefit. Eek call the authorities, there’s an adult drinking Pepsi Max at 2pm, we must unleash the policy! Oh no wait... that’s right, I’m not purchasing alcohol am I? Oh and I’m sat with two other adults... in a family pub... that’s serving food. Dear oh dear (Sorry, I felt like such a silly topic deserved kids TV speak.). I mean seriously, what’s next? Apparently common sense isn’t needed so will we soon be seeing men with pipes and flat caps (Horrible generalisation) carrying around their passports for a pint? I’ve already seen Challenge 25 signs in various establishments so who knows how far they will take it. Anyway, I’m off to dye my hair grey, I fancy a drink later.
Love L x