U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Mystery Shop programs to reduce underage alcohol sales

Award Information

Award #
Awardee County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2012, $413,164)

OJJDP's Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws (EUDL) Field-Initiated Research and Evaluation (FIRE) Program supports methodologically rigorous research and evaluation studies that inform policy and practice consistent with the Department of Justice's mission. OJJDP is funding field-initiated studies to understand the factors that influence the prevention of underage drinking, the enforcement of underage drinking laws, and individuals' and communities' attitudes and behaviors about underage drinking. The FY 2012 EUDL FIRE Program is authorized by the Department of Justice Appropriations Act, Pub. L. No. 112-55, 125 Stat. 552, 617.

This project examines a new community-level intervention strategy to achieve compliance with sales-to-minors laws: Mystery Shops. Mystery Shops are attempted purchases of age-restricted products by young, legal-age inspectors for the purpose of providing feedback to licensees on actual staff age-verification conduct. Unlike law enforcement inspections, licensees and staff face no legal penalties for failing to check the ID of someone young enough to trigger an ID-check but not under age 21. Mystery shops have shown to be effective with large national chains that implemented programs under agreements with state attorneys general. Researchers working with the Responsible Retailing Forum hypothesize that Mystery Shops will similarly improve staff performance for independently owned and operated licensees. To test this, RRF Field Services will partner with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to conduct 13 monthly Mystery Shops in 24 Oregon communities. The research design is as follows: in 8 communities, licensees will receive on-the-spot feedback and follow-up reports; in 8 communities, licensees will receive reports on aggregate community-level performance and Responsible Retailing best practices; and 8 other communities will serve as controls. If proven to be effective, Mystery Shops will provide communities with a low-cost means to assist licensees reduce underage sales without taxing the limited resources of law enforcement.

Date Created: September 5, 2012