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Sometimes life is stranger than fiction…
Today, for the first time since I was a young student drinking at my local pub in Christchurch, New Zealand, I was asked for proof of age after ordering alcohol.
I kid you not. This Blog comes to you from Orlando Airport, where, having arrived early to ensure I got through security in plenty of time, I decided to have a steak and a glass of wine at the Outback Steakhouse.
Having been shown to my table, I was quickly attended by a male waiter who said, “Would you like something to drink today Sir?”
“Yes, I’d like a glass of Pinot Grigio please,” I replied.
“Well I’m going to need to see some ID then Sir.”
Now, while I like to flatter myself that my recent get-fit campaign has made me look at least five years younger (ok then, five weeks), it is fair to say that with my carefully polished, shiny and just about completely hair-free pate, I don’t look like your average underage drinker (the legal drinking age in Florida by the way is 21).
In fact, twice this year when taking my young children to school I have been called ‘Granddad’ – once by a fellow parent and once by a (impudent) school friend of my daughter. I even received a cold call at home a few months back asking “Are you experiencing any trouble getting up the stairs?” [How did they know?].
But I digress…
When I asked the waiter why he needed ID, he muttered something about it being a new company policy and said he would show it to me if I wanted.
I duly waved my passport and he set off to get my drink.
“Excuse me… I would like to see that policy please,” I called to him.
“Sure,” he said, handing a booklet to me called ‘We ID Everybody’ that carried the logo of Autogrill-owned HMSHost.
“Well I guess it makes a nice change from being called Granddad at my children’s school,” I joked.
“I’m not ignorant,” he retorted sharply. “It’s company policy.”
“But you are rude,” I replied, shocked by his response to a light-hearted, friendly aside. “So I won’t be eating or drinking here, thank you very much.”
I duly left and went and ordered at Burger King instead. While I ate my lunch, I read the HMSHost booklet. Commendably, the company is committed to preventing underage drinking. As a result it has decided that all customers ordering alcohol should be ID’d for proper age verification.
HMSHost has created a policy bearing the acronym CARD (Common Sense, Approach with Consideration, React Accordingly and Deliver Excellent Service).
My not so friendly waiter seemed to have mislaid all his CARDS. Under ‘React Accordingly’ the company advises ‘Never become short with the Guest. Always maintain your composure.”
It even offers staff some useful tips for handling difficult elderly people who are bemused at being asked to prove their age.
“Keep them focused on what they really want – a great drink!” it urges, suggesting staff try lines such as ‘The Connoisseur Bloody Mary really compliments the Classic Scramble you have ordered’.
Mmm… My man didn’t quite get that far. He simply managed to lose a customer. But by the time I had finished my excellent chicken sandwich at Burger King I wasn’t that upset. After all, it’s not every day that people mistake me for a 20 year old…