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Mystery Shopping and Alcohol Sales: Do Supermarkets and Liquor Stores Sell Alcohol to Underage Customers?

NCJ Number
Journal of Adolescent Health Volume: 41 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2007 Pages: 302-308
Jordy F. Gosselt M.Sc.; Joris J. van Hoof M.Sc.; Menno D.T. de Jong Ph.D.; Sander Prinsen M.Sc.
Date Published
September 2007
7 pages
This Dutch study examined unobtrusively whether supermarkets and liquor stores do indeed comply with the legal age restrictions for alcohol sales.
The results indicate that Dutch supermarkets and liquor stores generally do not comply with legal age restrictions for alcohol sales. Underage adolescents can easily buy alcohol in supermarkets and liquor stores, and are rarely confronted with vendors asking for their age or ID. In all, the results suggest that legal age restrictions without facilitation of the vendors and without enforcement strategies will not suffice to prevent underage alcohol sales. The study also demonstrates the usefulness of mystery shopping in monitoring the effectiveness of alcohol restrictive policies. Although the dangers of alcohol for adolescents are widely acknowledged, underage alcohol consumption is on the rise. In the Netherlands, 90 percent of the 15-year old adolescents have had experience with drinking alcoholic beverages, and that 52 percent drink alcohol on a weekly basis. In order to gauge the overall situation in the Netherlands, which is characterized by a policy of age restriction without substantial enforcement efforts, this study investigated underage alcohol sales in Dutch supermarkets and liquor stores. The study utilized mystery shopping to investigate retailers’ compliance with alcohol legislation. A research protocol was developed based on the methodology of mystery shopping. One-hundred and fifty supermarkets and 75 liquor stores were visited by 15-year old adolescents who tried to buy soft alcoholic beverages. Tables, references