Yesterday I had to drop by a home improvement store to buy two cans of spray paint for an upcoming project. When I got up to the cash register, the first thing I was asked for was my date of birth.
Odd, I thought. But I gave it.
The cashier entered the date, then rang up the two cans.
“So why did you need my date of birth?” I asked.
“Well, that’s so they can track purchases to make sure people aren’t buying spray paint for young people to inhale.”
As I slid the credit card through the reader, I decided not to let that one just slide by.
“Well, how does having my date of birth prove one way or the other whether or not I’m buying spray paint for young people to inhale? Of the people born on the same day as me, how does it know which one I am? And if you’re just taking my word for it, how do you know that’s really even my birthday?”
He blinked at me for a moment, then smiled. “Hey, they just gave me the rule.”
“Oh, no problem,” I said, assuring him that I wasn’t trying to be a troublemaker, but was just questioning a rule that makes absolutely no sense at all.
When I go to the drug store, I have to sign a register to buy Sudafed, which I only take when my sinuses are really acting up. But I have to hand over my driver’s license, too. So the information they’re getting is actually coming from an official ID. (Assuming it’s not fake.)
But just asking me to give my birthdate means that there’s no verification. I could make up a random date. Then just give the spray paint to some hoodlums.
With reliable information like that, it’s a good thing I’m not the type.