February 10, 2016

Businesses should not be condemned for mistake

By Tim Barnum
News Editor | news@ogemawherald.com
Posted 4/20/11


Eleven businesses in Arenac County recently made a major mistake. There’s no doubt about it.

No matter what the excuse is, an employee responsible for selling alcohol should have taken the few seconds necessary to make sure the person buying or consuming a drink was of age.

That being said (the most popular transition in the world when something unpopular is about to be said), I don’t feel that these retailers should have their names dragged through the mud, be made into scapegoats and, as some people have called for, boycotted.

But before pointing a judgmental finger, they should take a long look in the mirror.

First off, how many people reading this drank alcohol when they were underage? How was that alcohol acquired? Was it purchased by someone of age? Was there a store clerk who neglected to check your ID?

In this most recent case, it seems to me that the only reason people are speaking out on the problem is because a law enforcement agency performed a sting operation and these businesses got caught. What if the cops randomly knocked on your door one day, though, and a couple of your children/nieces and nephews/younger friends were sitting around watching a football game drinking a beer? Would you drag your own name through the dirt if they were underage? Call yourself an idiot? Question your own integrity?

While we’re on that topic, how many people out there have ever purchased alcohol for someone underage? I’m willing to bet it’s a pretty high percentage. And I’m also willing to bet that many of those who have gotten a little older, and realized that buying for minors was a bad idea, probably didn’t have a problem buying for 20-year-old friends when they turned 21.

It’s not right. It’s not to be condoned. But it is not uncommon. If you answered no to both questions above, congratulations. Now look to the person to your left and right (if there is one, if not, try this exercise when there is a person to your left and right). Ask them if they ever A. drank as a minor; or B. purchased alcohol for a minor. If they answer yes, are you going to cut off all ties with them and preach to the community that they are bad people?

Also, how many times has a law enforcement officer let off someone for drinking underage? How many “warnings” have been issued? Is there any way for this data to be collected?

Perhaps it never has happened in Arenac County. I doubt it, but could be wrong. Again, if I am, then congratulations to Arenac County. But if I’m right, and I have a sneaking suspicion I am, then it seems like the problem is not only with 11 businesses.

So go ahead and refuse to buy from these bars and stores. That’s fine. I don’t even care if you have a negative opinion of these places for the rest of your days here on Earth. Go for it. But I personally prefer letting the law handle this on a case-by-case basis (this being a legal issue and all).

God knows I’ve made mistakes, and I will make several more. I hope that my mistakes don’t bring about condemnation from every person in the county.

So, it’s fine to acknowledge mistakes were made. It’s even fine to form an opinion and make a personal decision as to where you conduct business in the future based on that opinion.

But it’s not fine to direct personal attacks against these business owners’ and employees’ characters based on one mistake that just so happened to come to light because it was a law enforcement issue. I swear we live in a time when the whole concept of “shoe on the other foot” has not only been forgotten, but rebuked.

It makes sense, I guess, as empathy takes effort. It takes reflection. And who wants to admit they make mistakes anymore? It’s much easier to come up with a snap judgment and scream from a soapbox knowing nobody will point out our flaws.

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