SDSU students go undercover in alcohol investigation - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

THURSDAY, August 5, 2010

SDSU students go undercover in alcohol investigation

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CBS 8) - Just how easy is it for minors to buy alcohol at grocery store self-scanners? SDSU students went undercover to find out.

The study was carried out by SDSU's Center for Alcohol and Drug Studies. It finds that when it comes to self-checkout lanes, it's a system that can allow minors to get their hands on alcohol completely unchecked.

Even though a store attendant is supposed to be alerted when a customer scans an alcoholic item and check their ID, a study carried out by SDSU finds that is not always the case.

"I was shocked at how easy it was to dupe the system," student Art Rathgeber said.

The undercover group of participants was aged 21 to 23. They visited 216 stores throughout Southern California. Ten percent of the time, the self-checkout machine failed to lock up when alcohol was scanned, allowing the purchase, and when it did work, store attendants failed to ask for ID more than eight percent of the time.

"I was surprised I wasn't always carded when I went thru the self checkout system," Rathgeber said.

To address this, new legislation is seeking to require all alcohol purchases be made with a real-life cashier.

"It isn't that it be prohibited, it is just that they go to a checkout line a couple of feet away and purchase alcohol there," Assemblyman Hector De La Torre (D) Southgate said.

The study finds underage customers were also able to game the self-checkout system by scanning an item of equal weights and simply bag an alcoholic item.

"With the self check-out I could easily scan a $3 12-pack of Coke and walked away with a $15 12-pack of beer," Rathgeber said.

In 29 visits to grocery stores with self-scanners throughout San Diego County, the undercover students were able to game the system 69 percent of the time.

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