ID Examination 101

Get Back to Basics with this Primer on Properly Checking Identification

Beyond the daily headlines of economic woes, rising costs, falling sales and increasing neo-Prohibitionism, today’s bar and nightclub operators are faced with myriad other challenges, from executing successful promotions to offering flawless service, all to attract new guests and hang on to the ones they have. But now is not the time to lose focus on training the fundamental skills of our trade, especially properly checking identification.

When asked why they fail to check identification, many front-line team members say they are uncomfortable with the process of requesting and checking ID because they often are requesting identification from a guest who is their elder. This discomfort leads to the team member rushing the process or, worse, simply “going through the motions” or not checking at all.

For team members who are uncomfortable requesting ID from guests (or who even think it may damage their tip), remind them that in today’s security-conscious and credit-driven world, guests are accustomed to showing identification throughout their day. Identification checks are required for everything from checking into a hotel to buying movie tickets; showing ID now has become a natural part of American life. Empower team members to check identification, no matter what their position or if they think a guest has already been carded.

Once they understand an ID check is not an affront to guests, make sure they know how to do it thoroughly with these steps:

1. Engage the guest in friendly conversation while asking for identification. It will allow you to observe nervous behaviors — such as avoiding eye contact or attempting to rush the process — that may indicate a fraudulent ID. This is also a great opportunity to gauge whether the guest has been drinking before arriving at the club. The best way to avoid over-service is to reject guests who are intoxicated before they enter your establishment.

2. Ask the guest to hand over his or her ID. For security and accuracy reasons, team members should never handle a guest’s wallet or purse or check an ID through a plastic window. Only by holding the ID in their hands will they be able to detect flaws in quality that may indicate an ID has been tampered with, such as bubbles or cuts in the laminate or inconsistent thickness. With the ID in hand, check the general appearance — colors should be bold and crisp. Tilt the ID to make sure all reflective seals and holograms flash.

3. Verify the ID by closely comparing it to the person who presented it. Look at the photo, but don’t stop there! Read the physical description. Does it match both the picture and the person? Pay special attention to height and eye color, as altered IDs will often change the picture, but not the written description. This step is frequently missed in locations that use an automated scanner because the checker is often focused on the validation screen and not the guest in front of them.

4. Read the date of birth. Really take the time to do the math. One of the most frequent failures by staff during sting operations is checking the picture on an ID but not the birth date. Many team members assume no one would be so bold as to hand over a valid ID that states he or she is underage. Make this step easy by posting today’s “born on” date requirement on the opening screen of your POS, or equip bartenders or servers with age verification calculators for quick, accurate calculations.

5. Thank the guest by name. By doing so, you make it easier to recognize the information should you see it again — if, for example, the guest “lends” the ID to another person in the party or if two IDs display duplicate information.

While speed, accuracy, salesmanship and showmanship are all valued skills, the comparably mundane execution of safety and responsibility is paramount. NCB

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