Feeling Like a Criminal Walking Out the Beer Store Door


When I was about 12 years old, I lived in a small town in Iowa where there wasn’t a lot to do.

My friends and I would head “up town” to kill some time wandering through the shops that dotted the town square (this was before Wal*Mart sucked the life blood out these small businesses and turned them all into art galleries and coffee shops).

I’d walk into Harrison’s five and dime or the Hallmark store or Gobble’s Clothing, and would immediately feel the suspicious gaze of the shopkeeper begin to burn a hole in the back of my head. It would set upon me like a weight, making me feel as if my every move was being observed in case I turned out to be a kid with sticky fingers.

Fast forward three decades, and it’s been a long while since I’ve felt self-conscious in a store, with one exception – walking out of a liquor store without making a purchase.

I likely get this feeling because I think that a liquor store isn’t a place to browse – it’s a place you go to on a mission. Daddy needs his medicine.  In my mind booze buyers don’t fuss over the fact that their top choice isn’t available, they pick the best of what’s available and move on with it.

But beer geeks are different. We look to see what’s new, or if anything rare and wonderful happens to be left on the shelf. We usually have beer at home already (perhaps lots of it) and we’re looking for something very specific. If it’s not there, then we make that awkward perp walk out the door without making a purchase.

In that moment I look at the height measurement bar taped beside the door and imagine the person behind the counter is taking note of my 6′ 5″ frame so they can tell the cops exactly how tall the shoplifter was.

I know it’s probably in my head –  the person behind the counter is probably happy that they don’t have to ring up my order or pack it in a bag or a box – but I always feel like they’re looking me over, just like those shopkeepers in 1983 Iowa, searching for a sign that I’m walking out with more than I came in with.  Of all the fabulous feelings and sensations from my youth, this has to be the one that I get to re-experience?  Figures.

What about you? Have you ever felt like a criminal walking out of a liquor store without a ski mask on?

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Categories: Beer, Lifestyle


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45 Comments on “Feeling Like a Criminal Walking Out the Beer Store Door”

  1. October 24, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

    You mean, like how black people feel every time they walk into a store?

    • October 24, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

      Sort of, but beerier.

    • George
      October 26, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

      Thank you for reminding me that people are different. I almost forgot. Luckily there is always some left-wing-nut nearby to point out the vast differences between people.

  2. Michael
    October 24, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    Did somebody really play the race card on Beer and Whiskey Brothers site? I usually just feel the extreme frustration and disappointment of living in a backwater place that never has the beer for which I am searching.

  3. Michael
    October 24, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    Is “builderofcoalitions” supposed to be a sarcastic name for this person?

    • October 24, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

      It’s the name of his blog “Building Coalitions Through Beer and Pavement.” Zac is our liberal/feminist/beer loving buddy who sometimes wears his opinions on his sleeve, and usually fun things then ensue.

  4. October 24, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

    Nope…I’m one of those privileged white, male trash who never realized how privileged he actually was until he got older and wiser.

    • October 24, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

      Did the “older and wiser” part happen yet, Wayne? 🙂

  5. Michael
    October 24, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

    Either you are not old enough or have not gotten wiser because those kinds of comments serve no useful purpose.

    • October 24, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

      Getting kind of trollish in here, Michael…

  6. October 24, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    Aha!! Now I know why I have an unspecified dirty feeling every time I walk out empty handed (those two times back in ’11).


    • October 24, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

      Indeed. It’s been more common for me lately because I’ve been looking for Dragons Milk and Mad Elf, both of which are in short supply. I go in, get disappointed, take a look at what else is there, decide “aw, screw it” and leave feeling like a criminal.

      • October 24, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

        I might be able to find some of those miffed elfen trolls. Want me to hit up a few dealers for you?

        • October 24, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

          Well, I have two cases in the garage, but I need two more to see my through until 2014!

      • BeerBear
        October 26, 2013 at 6:21 am #

        I finally found Dragon’s Milk in my area (SE TN/No GA), after all I have read about it here I was rather disappointed. OK but I would not spend energy searching for it.

        • October 26, 2013 at 7:50 am #

          Sorry for spoiling it with hype, which can be the worst off-flavor of them all. Dragons Milk is magical if you love big and hot boozy treats, but not everyone does.


  7. Michael
    October 24, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    Apologies to you and the site. Good site and usually great comments. I always end up buying something less than what I would like then go home and order online to get shipped what I really wanted in the first place. Fortunately, my wife is very understanding as sometimes the budget gets stretched. Emergencies are emergencies.

    • October 24, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

      Online shipping sounds great, but was a problem in NJ (where I live) for years. I think the law on shipping booze has been relaxed, so I should start clicking around. My wife thanks you in advance, Michael!

  8. October 24, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    Ugh. Don’t talk about me like I’m not here.

    Look, I found it ironic that a middle-class, white dude feels judged as a criminal when he leaves a retail store. This is what black and hispanic people feel every time they enter a store in this country. Call it whatever you want, it’s a fact.

    When Jim walks into a store, I suspect the only thing the workers think is that he’s there to spend his hard-earned money. He’s not considered a threat because they know his height. The thing about privilege in this country is that normally Jim (like 99% of the other people who comment on this site) never have to feel like they’re being perceived as a criminal.

    I have no hard feelings toward Jim for making this observation. I just thought he ought to know that this is not a unique feeling for certain members of our communities.


    • October 24, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

      I watched all five seasons of The Wire, Zac, so I totally understand what you’re saying.

      • October 24, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

        Sorry. I apologize. You are practically a Black Panther.

        • October 24, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

          Power to the people, Zac.

  9. Michael
    October 24, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

    Zac or whatever you call yourself. You aren’t here. This is web site. I don’t know where you are and I don’t really care. I question whether you know of what you speak. My son in law is hispanic and we discuss this and he has never felt this. He is an enlisted Coast Guard Petty Officer First Class. Perhaps you live in a backward area but his black and hispanic Coast Guard colleagues don’t seem to feel to bothered in a liquor store in or out of uniform.

    • October 24, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

      Michael, I was having some fun. Yes, I realize that this is a web site.

      Good for your son-in-law. His experiences obviously speak for an entire population. You’re so right. My sincerest apologies.

  10. Michael
    October 24, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    Zac Thanks. I will be sure to tell my son in law that you feel outraged for him so he doesn’t have to be concerned about it.

    • October 24, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

      I will be sure to inform the entire Hispanic community that racism is dead. Do you have any African-American relatives? I’m sure their community would also like to know that you have declared racism over.

  11. Michael
    October 24, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

    Zac, I believe you are exaggerating my comments. Racism is not dead but to make like “black people feel this every time they walk into a store” is a little over the top. I don’t know if racism, bigotry, or prejudice will ever die but fortunately we will have you to be outraged for us all.

  12. Michael
    October 24, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    That should have “statements like”….

  13. Michael
    October 24, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

    So, we have 40 million or so black people in the USA and you tell me a few get arrested, detained, frisked, or whatever. I’m sorry, I will let you handle all the outrage. When it gets to 40 or 50 % getting stopped for shopping then I will be outraged. No, I don’t have any black family members yet but I have one daughter who has yet to pick a partner for life.

    • October 24, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

      So, you’re cool with 3 out of every 10 African-Americans being racially profiled when they shop? Just trying to figure out your threshold, Michael.

  14. Michael
    October 24, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    And no I don’t know the demographics of the USA. I just took a guess on the numbers. It really doesn’t matter to me one way or the other. It is what it is. There will always be bigots, racists and prejudicial people. They haven’t figured out yet how to legislate how people think but I’m sure they are working on it.

  15. Diss Content
    October 24, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

    Do I sense a little “Proverbs 28:1” vibe perhaps? Doth the beer geek protest too much?

    Doesn’t matter because genetics has ‘forced’ you to live the straight and narrow with a 6’5” handicap. Plus those shop keepers may not have been eyeing you with bad intent, but with lust in their hearts; much the way they do to me. But I’ve learned to live with it.

  16. Michael
    October 24, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

    To Zac, ZacZac, “builderofcoalitions” or whatever. Please send me the “refereed journal” article from which you drew your stats. I promise I will try to learn to read just to read this article.

  17. October 25, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    I just had a similar conversation yesterday with my girlfriend.

    So I’m a 26 year old part Asian part Hawaiian…which means I look 19 (speaking of race). I also just relocated to Michigan from Hawaii, so I’m rocking the McLovin-esque Hawaii ID. This means my ID has been triple-taked (triple took?) by near every bartender or cashier I’ve encountered. I was also especially aware yesterday of how many skeptical looks I got from the elderly crowd at Meijer as I walked through the store with my six pack of Jaw Jacker.

    I’m very worried that one day they’ll think my ID is fake and deny me. I’m hoping my saving grace is that I always buy craft brews or nice wine. I’d imagine fakies are more inclined to buy Smirnoff or Hamms…

    • October 25, 2013 at 10:46 am #

      I think it’d be fun to walk into a liquor store, whip out your ID and proclaim, “One bottle of your finest Peppermint Schnapps, good sir!” I imagine that would be an interesting exchange, especially if you were wearing an oversized fake mustache.

      • October 29, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

        Hah! I think I now know how I will be doing my Halloween booze shopping, though I think I’d get a better story if I did it off season.

  18. Dan
    October 25, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

    *wow, that escalated fast.*

    *ya that really got out of hand*

  19. BeerBear
    October 26, 2013 at 6:37 am #

    40 years ago I was a young (white) man with long hair and a beard. I got the old hairy eyeball constantly, even walking the street much less in any store. Discrimination is everywhere and won’t go away.
    One of the more racist people I ever met was a 1st generation Japanese man whose family was shipped from the LA area to the camps in No. CA during WWII. He would not consider allowing his daughter to date any one who was not Japanese.
    Today I live in TN and know black shopkeepers who keep a hard eye on black shoppers. Is that racist, or realistic in light of their life experience?

  20. January 2, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

    Many times, I’ve found myself buying a bomber of something just because I don’t want to be seen walking out empty-handed, especially when it’s a small, local store.

    • January 2, 2014 at 7:53 pm #

      Yes, the guilty purchase. Usually something tried and true that you know you’ll eventually use.


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