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My Dear Gordon letter

I am, most of the time, an easy-going person. I try not to get worked up over little things, and I try not to take things personally when they're clearly not. But sometimes something will happen that just plain makes me angry.

My daughter turned 21 a week ago. One of the things she and we had been looking forward to was that when we went out to dinner, if she wanted a drink, she could have one. Sounds obvious, right? It's a state law in (I think) every state in the Union: Under 21, they won't serve you booze. Over 21, no problem.

Not at Gordon Biersch, actually. I don't know how many people out there know this chain of brew pubs. It's nationwide and doing well, especially in downtown Rockville. They take reservations, and they have a nice loyalty program, so we have been regular and very good customers since one opened near us in Rockville's new Town Center.

Tonight we went there for a nice relaxing dinner. My daughter knew she would be carded, so she brought her ID, but when she presented it, the server took one look and told her she couldn't serve her. Not because it was a fake ID (it wasn't). Not because the picture didn't look enough like her (it's a good likeness), not because it showed it sign of being tampered with (it was in pristine shape), but solely because it was a "vertical ID." When the Motor Vehicle Administration issues a driver's license or learner's permit, they print the photo and the text in a horizontal orientation unless the person is under 21, in which case they print it vertically. When a horizontal ID is presented, it it's obvious to the servers and bouncers that the customer is over 21.

But a license doesn't magically change once your birthday happens. It's analog, not digital, and in order to get a new one, you have to go to the MVA, something that can take hours and has to be done during MVA office hours. So if an ID is vertical, it doesn't mean the person is under 21; it means you have to read the birth date to figure their age. Gordon Biersch has decided it is too risky to allow anyone in their employ to assess the ID, make sure it's really that person, then read the date, do the math and say yes, you can buy a beer. It's much safer and simpler for them to say "No horizontal ID, no alcohol."

Our waitress offered to send the manager over; we said yes, expecting that said manager would in fact do more than parrot the same excuse, but in fact he didn't. GB's policy as he expressed it is absolute. He did not ask to see my daughter's ID; he did not do a single thing except say that this was a corporate decision and he was not going to go counter to it. I suggested that BG were, in effect, writing their own law on who could drink legally. He said it was no different from GB declining to serve Guiness. Personally, I consider picking and choosing customers to be a different matter from choosing the menu. I don't like to blame employees for management decisions, but this man was either an excellent actor or he had no problem with this policy.

I could understand the waitress not being allowed to serve someone with a vertical ID without having the manager assess the situation. But he didn't do that! The fact that my daughter was with her parents didn't matter (even though Maryland is enlightened enough to allow parents to let their own kids drink at home even under age 21). That fact that she had a legally issued photo ID did not matter. The fact that she had only had a week since she could have gotten a horizontal ID didn't matter.

Such rigid thinking makes me grind my teeth! After all, if she was going to cheat, she would have had a fake horizontal ID! It was difficult to enjoy dinner after that display of unbending stupidity. GB clearly does not need our business; there is a line out the door on Saturday nights. Well that's a good thing for them because I just unsubscribed from their email notices and I am not going back. I think it's a unique form of age discrimination, and I don't plan to support it.

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( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 26th, 2010 12:58 am (UTC)
Karen, I'm sorry to hear that. It sucks to no end that happened.
Jun. 26th, 2010 01:01 am (UTC)
Yeah, it was a real buzz kill. They have clearly decided that the set of people they are treating this way is small enough not to matter.
Jun. 26th, 2010 03:51 am (UTC)
That's just ridiculous. Seriously. "Corporate says we have to chop the hands off anyone caught stealing a toothpick. Sorry it's policy."


I'd have left then and there, to be honest. I give you credit for not storming out.
Jun. 26th, 2010 03:56 am (UTC)
The hardest part was tipping the waitress. It really wasn't her fault, and at least she had the grace to look a little mortified at having to rigidly enforce a dumb rule. The manager, on the other hand, really did sound like he thought it was a perfectly OK thing to do.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 26th, 2010 01:51 pm (UTC)
What is the power and light district? They card people going into an area instead of by store?
(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 26th, 2010 02:19 pm (UTC)
Hah! It sounds interesting. I Googled it, and it sounds a bit like a mini-Vegas.
Jun. 26th, 2010 01:01 pm (UTC)
I agree with Bogwitch - I would have stood up and left there and then.
Jun. 26th, 2010 01:50 pm (UTC)
Maybe we should have. We are not make-a-scene people, generally. Maybe we need to learn.
Jun. 26th, 2010 02:02 pm (UTC)
My mother once apologised to a restaurant for finding glass in her food. So I totally understand. I think I'm getting curmudgeonly in my old age - or at least less tolerant of being asked to pay for service which doesn't actual serve my needs...
Jun. 26th, 2010 02:17 pm (UTC)
>My mother once apologised to a restaurant for finding glass in her food.

Wow! I'm not that bad.
Jun. 26th, 2010 02:40 pm (UTC)
NO ONE else could be that bad. But it has given me a good idea of what not to do so that I have managed to be more assertive.

Jun. 26th, 2010 01:47 pm (UTC)
Such rigid thinking makes me grind my teeth!

What a load of jobsworth crap :( Sorry for your troubles.
Jun. 26th, 2010 01:48 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I just sent you a message, BTW. Your book got a lovely review on yalitlovers.
Jun. 26th, 2010 01:50 pm (UTC)
I’m going to play devil’s advocate here, because I used to work in the service industry.

Rules are rules, and they’re there for a good reason. In Canada there is a hefty fine that goes not only to the server (5,000 per offence) if caught serving an underage patron, but to the establishment as well (25,000 per offence). Have you checked to see what the fine would be if they served someone underage? Could also be that they’ve been nailed before, and aren’t taking any chances.

Honestly, I don’t see anything wrong with their policy. If I worked there, I would have done the exact same thing. Sorry.
Jun. 26th, 2010 01:58 pm (UTC)
I'm not angry at the server- I left a decent tip-- and I understand that she had no choice. I am annoyed that the manager's attitude was that this was a reasonable policy. I agree that restaurants and stores have to protect themselves. My son still gets carded even though he is almost 27 and actually looks older when he lets his beard grow. But they aren't just enforcing the law, they're making their own extra rule. It's the corporation I'm maddest at. For one thing, I don't think this policy really stops underage drinking in any way, it just makes more business for the MVA.

Edited at 2010-06-26 02:00 pm (UTC)
Jun. 26th, 2010 02:10 pm (UTC)
It sounds to me as though they've been nailed with an underage drinking offence before, and they're being overly cautions.
Jun. 26th, 2010 02:15 pm (UTC)
But I don't think it's cautious. I think it's unreasonable. If your 21st birthday is on a Sunday, there is no way that GB will serve you alcohol. You can't get a new license on a Sunday. Imagine if someone had planned their 21st birthday dinner at GB and then discovered the guest of honor could not get his first legal drink, because GB added their own layer of rules. And they don't have signs that say this. You don't find out until someone who looks young orders a drink.
Jun. 26th, 2010 02:42 pm (UTC)
out of curiosity what would have happened if you had handed your drink to your daughter? You wouldn't be breaking the law since she is over 21....
Jun. 26th, 2010 02:57 pm (UTC)
My sister suggested that. But I had already ordered a glass of Riesling, and she's not all that fond of it. I have no clue what the restaurant would have done if I had.
Jun. 26th, 2010 04:40 pm (UTC)
GB Rockville
I work for GB! It is company policy not to accept vertal ID's at all! Many of our beltway locations have been involved in police sting operations including a recent one at Rockville. Sorry about it but it's just not worth loosing a job or operation and liquor license over.
Jun. 26th, 2010 07:21 pm (UTC)
Re: GB Rockville
I get that GB feels they are protecting themselves. What I don't understand is how they think this is a foolproof way to do it. What makes the orientation of the license proves a young-looking person is NOT part of a sting operation? In fact, if someone was going to present a fake ID, they would be sure to use a horizontal one.

You may have "saved" your license but you lost some good customers and an immense amount of good will. I'm happy think that was worth it,
Jun. 27th, 2010 04:58 am (UTC)
I hear what you're saying. And I would have been annoyed. But I also get GB's POV. The world is soooo litigation happy and some places are really trying to crack down on alcohol abuse issues. I'm not saying the policy will help in the overall abuse of alcohol or underage drinking. Nah, if you want booze, you'll get it. But the company has probably been stung before and made the rigid policy so it could be around for people to enjoy it. It is unfortunate that a few yahoo's muck it up for others.
Jun. 27th, 2010 08:40 pm (UTC)
I hate it when people are unhelpful for the sake of being unhelpful. I hope you and your family didn't let it spoil the whole day.
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )

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